Bill Wise contributed to this story

The Missouri Conservation Department expects the weather to cooperate with hunters heading into the woods this weekend. The youth hunt runs one half hour before sunrise to sunset each day Saturday and Sunday. Children who are ages 6 to 15 on opening day may hunt.

(photo/Missouri Department of Conservation)

Shotguns with shot not larger than No. 4, most bows, crossbow’s and atlatls are allowed methods of taking turkeys. Recorded turkey calls, dogs, bait or live decoys are not allowed.

Although four consecutive years of poor hatches caused Missouri’s turkey population to decline during the late 2000s, improvements in productivity have since resulted in a rebound in turkey numbers throughout much of the state.

“Since 2011, we’ve seen an increasing trend in the spring turkey harvest,” says MDC Turkey Biologist Jason Isabelle. “A great deal of what makes for a good spring turkey season depends on the hatch two years prior. Although the 2015 hatch was not as high as in 2014, it, along with carry-over from previous years, should result in a strong 2017 harvest.”

This year’s turkey harvest in the Northeast and West Prairie regions is expected to be down from one year ago. Isabelle expects spring harvests in the Ozarks, Lindley Breaks, Union Breaks, Mississippi Lowlands, and Northwest regions to be similar to last year’s.

Isabelle does note that last year’s poor hatch will result in fewer jakes on the landscape.

“I think hunters will notice a reduction in the number of jakes they’re used to seeing,” he says. “However, because most hunters prefer to harvest adult gobblers, the effects of last year’s hatch won’t be fully realized until the 2018 spring season.”

Isabelle stressed that hunters can easily avoid the main cause of turkey-hunting incidents—mistaking or being mistaken by another hunter for game. He also advised hunters to wear some hunter-orange clothing when moving through the woods or fields, particularly when hunting public land, and to always know the locations of all members of a hunting party.

MDC offers turkey hunting opportunities on more than 500 conservation areas. The regular spring turkey season runs April 17 through May 7.