What’s Wrong With Turkeys?
A Report on the 2005 MO Spring Turkey Season
June 19, 2005

After a final sunrise and the last gobble of the 2005 Missouri spring turkey season slowly echoes away in the distance, Missouri turkey hunters reflect on this past season, for many, of what could have been. After the MDC check in process is completed, the final tally shows a very successful season. The spring seasons take is the fourth highest kill ever, even with three thousand less permits sold.

Mass confusion runs rampant thru the ranks of unsuccessful Missouri turkey hunters. Griping and complaining grows louder and louder in the ears of who ever will listen.

As much as I hate to say it, things are changing. For many years, no state could compare to Missouri’s quality hunting and intense gobbling activity. Well, turkey hunters, Missouri turkey hunters are beginning to experience what hunters from other states experience each spring in their home state, little or no gobbling.

To further study and gather information, I hunted our entire state this spring season. I hunted the Ozarks in southern MO., central MO and north MO. I also hunted the east side and the west side of the state as well.

In addition to my personal observations, I worked very closely with professional guides, outfitters, outdoor writers and other television crews hunting all across our state. I remained in close contact throughout the season by cell phone and e-mail receiving daily turkey reports from their areas on gobbling activity, or lack there of, hunting pressure, and weather,

Missouri turkey hunters are just not hearing gobbling on the only days they have to hunt or little gobbling at daylight, then the dreaded quiet time. Many ask the question, “Why are they not responding to calls”. The most asked question from hunters, and my all time favorite, is. " What’s wrong with the turkeys?”

So what’s wrong with the turkeys this past 2005 season? Well, sorry, but nothing, ther just being turkeys, roosting, eating, pooping and breeding, just like every spring.

From my years of research and turkey hunting experience, I would have to conclude there are several factors or reasons for all the complaining and decreased gobbling intensity in Missouri.

I found that hunters that experienced our Missouri wild turkey boom of the 1980s and early 1990s are the ones who complain the most. Why all of the complaining? Missouri hunters are just not experiencing the gobbling they heard during those glory years.

Over one hundred thousand permits were sold this past season in Missouri, that really is a lot of hunters across the state, thousands more than just a few seasons ago, no comparison to the number of hunters during the 1980s

Public hunting ground, or state land reflects the effects and is a perfect example of “pressure”. These areas also receive the highest percentage of nonresident hunters, although numbers were down this season with about ten thousand nonresident permits sold.

Public land hunters complained as much as anyone, I would have to agree with them, there is always less gobbling on public ground. In addition, southern MO hunters complained more than the northern MO hunters. Naturally, gobbling activity was very good on some private lands with little or no hunting pressure

Turkey hunters seem to Judge "good " spring turkey hunting from a small window of opportunity, when most hens are on the nest, the two year old gobblers or "singing their love song" non stop and running to anything that sounds remotely like a hen. Anything outside that “Perfect world”, then something must be wrong with the turkeys.

The “perfect world” turkey hunting is exactly the kind of hunting we all experienced in the 1980’s and early 1990’s as Missouri wild turkeys were expanding into new habitat, the states flock was on the move, growing by leaps and bounds. Brood hen hatches were going through the roof, gobbling was nonstop all morning and most of the day.

Wild turkeys since that time have reached their maximum expansion within our state with virtually all-prime habitat holding birds. High hatch counts and excessive gobbling activity was directly related to the growth and expansion of the states flock during the restoration era.

During this past spring season two year old gobbling turkeys were at an all time low, several bad hatches the last several years certainly is responsible for some lack of gobbling.

Hunters during the 2005 season were dealing with three, four and five year old mature gobblers, a whole different animal that a two year old. These old gobblers do not gobble much, if at all, the hens run to them, Toms just strut and breed all morning long with little if any gobbling.

With wild turkey numbers at an all time high, there is more hen competition than ever for hunters to battle with. So many available hens staying with gobblers also equals little gobbling. With so many hens, there is no real reason for Toms to gobble.

Today a gobbler wakes up with hens; the Tom just drops out of the tree and begins making baby turkeys. When not breeding, he is strutting or running lesser toms away from his hens. Meanwhile a turkey hunter is two hundred yards away yelping on a turkey call that has no effect what so ever, all the while cussing the day that gobbler was hatched.

Last but not least, the most critical factor in the cause for less gobbling, hunting pressure. Excessive human activity in a hunting area shuts turkeys down, period. This is something I learned more that 30 something years ago.

We have very successful media/outdoor writer hunts and television shoots because we have and always have taken on ‘People pressure” head on. (Pressure is also known in turkey hunting circles as “Call shy” “Henned up” “ They know we are here”) Allowing hunting areas to rest several days, alternating hunting areas, locking gates and restricting vehicle traffic in hunting area all factors in less pressure and a successful hunt. Hunting from blinds in open country or smaller tracts of land also results in less pressure and more gobbling during the season.

In early April, gobblers began their courtship on an old 200 acres abandoned farm. Each and every day the wild turkeys gobble, strut and do what turkeys do, without any interference from people. As the turkey season approaches, ten turkey hunters who lease this farm for turkey hunting, arrive and run all through the property on ATV’s “Scouting.

A day before the hunt, the hunters walk all through the farm, drive trucks in the fields, run ATV’s, set up camp, cut, and haul in wood. Late on opening day, all are in deep discussion, “What’s wrong with the turkeys”



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