The rise and fall of fall turkey hunting
It’s safe to say that fall turkey hunting used to be a bigger deal in the Show-Me-State. Twenty years ago, hunters killed 15,000 wild turkeys in the fall. Turkey checking information through Oct. 20 of this year (about two thirds of the season), stood at 2,175 birds. That includes both the archery season and the fall firearms season combined. Needless to say, we are not going to end up anywhere close to 15,000 in 2019.
Some of the numbers for Northwest Missouri look like this on Oct. 20th. Atchison 3, Andrew 5, Nodaway 4, Holt 15, Worth 2, Gentry 3, DeKalb 13, Clinton 6, Harrison 20, Daviess 21, Grundy 8, Caldwell 10, and Livingston 25.
Fall turkey hunters have lessened their efforts over the years when the spring hatch was down. If hunters weren't seeing as many birds, they tended to not put much effort into fall hunting. Northwest Missouri has experienced several years of poor spring hatches and turkey numbers have been trending downward here. With the collapse of the fur market, the population of ground nesting predators like raccoons, opossums and coyotes has been trending upward.
Conservation Department data collected at scent stations over the last 40 years show an index for raccoons that has increased over 200%. Another factor is the conversion of over 600,000 acres of CRP back into cropland. Less nesting habitat and more predators puts pressure on the population. Archery deer hunting competes for hunters’ time as well. All things combined has put us at the point of struggling to hit the 3,000 mark this fall. On the bright side, if you head to the timber with your shotgun, you won't have much competition.