An annual wild-turkey brood-survey shows statewide turkey production has been below average. Missouri Department of Conservation Turkey Biologist Jason Isabelle indicated that this year’s rainfall and flooding negatively impacted turkey production.
“We undoubtedly lost quite a few nests to flooding this year,” said Isabelle. “Even for the nests that escaped the high water, hens that are wet during incubation give off more odor than they do when they’re dry, which increases their chance of being located by a predator.”
Each summer, as part of the state’s wild turkey brood survey, MDC staff and citizen volunteers record the number of hens and recently hatched turkeys they see, which are called poults. These observations are then tallied to determine the success of the hatch, which is most often reported as the average number of poults per hen observed during the survey. Isabelle explained that the poult-to-hen ratio is a good measure of nesting success and poult survival.
“Each year, thousands of citizens participate in the survey and we are grateful for their contribution,” Isabelle said. “During the three-month survey, participants typically report sightings of 60,000-80,000 turkeys, which is a testament to the large number of dedicated volunteers that take time to participate in the survey each year.”
This year’s statewide poult-to-hen ratio was the same as the 2016 ratio and 43% less than the previous five-year average. Isabelle says the poor hatch will make fall turkey hunting more challenging this year.
“Having fewer young birds on the landscape this year will likely result in hunters having to put forth more effort to be successful. This will be especially true in areas that experience good acorn production,” he said.
Isabelle says relatively few people hunt turkeys during the fall firearms season, which results in low hunting pressure and little competition among hunters.
He also says that where acorns are abundant, turkeys spend more time in forested areas and do not have to range far to locate food.
Fall archery turkey hunting is until Nov. 10. The fall firearms portion runs through October 31.