Sunday, October 4, 2015

MDC: turkey production about average, fall hunting prospects vary regionally

Brood-survey results show turkey hatch below last year, but similar to five-year average. 
Brood-survey results show turkey hatch below last year, but similar to five-year average
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) annual wild-turkey brood-survey shows mixed results for fall turkey hunting prospects. According to MDC Turkey Biologist Jason Isabelle, statewide turkey production in 2015 was lower than last year, but similar to the five-year average.
Each summer, citizen volunteers and MDC staff record the number of wild turkey hens and recently hatched turkeys, called poults, they see. These observations are then tallied for the annual brood survey. The number of poults is divided by the number of hens reported to create a poult-to-hen ratio (PHR). Isabelle explained that this a good measure of turkey nesting success and poult survival.
This year’s survey results showed lower reproduction than in 2014 – most likely due to wet spring and early summer weather.
“Wet weather during late spring and early summer is generally not conducive to good poult survival because turkeys can’t regulate their body heat well when they’re young,” Isabelle said. “If they become wet and temperatures are cool, they are susceptible to hypothermia.”
While below last year’s PHR of 1.7, Isabelle added that this year’s PHR of 1.5 is still about average for the last five years and above the 10-year average of 1.4.
“From 2007 through 2010, the statewide PHR ranged from 1.0 to 1.2, the longest stretch of poor turkey production we’ve had since starting the survey in the 1950s,”said Isabelle. “Things have gotten better over the past several years with PHRs of at least 1.5 in four out of the last five years.”
Given the unfavorably weather conditions that plagued much of the state during the nesting and brood-rearing periods, Isabelle says it’s encouraging to see good production in a some regions.
“With all the rain we had this spring and early summer, I had anticipated considerably poorer production,” Isabelle said. “Although production was down in most regions compared to last year, good production in 2014 should result in quite a few two-year-old gobblers for the 2016 spring season,” Isabelle said.
The eastern Ozarks had the best news this year, with a 1.9 PHR. Northwestern Missouri was close behind with a ratio of 1.8. The lowest PHRs were reported in the western-prairie counties (1.1), northeastern counties (1.2), and the Ozark border (1.2). The rest of the state was near or above the previous five-year average.
“The eastern Ozarks had another strong year of production and has had the best production in the state in three of the last four years,” Isabelle said.  “As a result, we’ve seen increasing turkey numbers in many Ozark counties.”
Isabelle says brood survey results in northwest Missouri are encouraging. “It is nice to see another good year of production in the northwestern part of the state, especially given the population decline that occurred regionally during the late 2000s,” Isabelle said. “Although turkey numbers are still a long way from where they used to be in the region, we’re finally headed in the right direction.”
MDC appreciates all of the dedicated citizen volunteers who take time to participate in the brood survey each year. The survey is a very important tool for MDC’s Wild Turkey Management Program. “We have about 9,000 dedicated citizens that participate in the brood survey each year,” Isabelle said. “We certainly appreciate their contribution.”
Results of the 2015 wild turkey brood survey are available at http://on.mo.gov/1L0ruhm.
Fall archery turkey hunting continues through Nov. 13 and resumes again Nov. 25 to Jan. 15 with shooting hours one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset with a limit of two turkeys of either sex. Fall firearms turkey hunting runs Oct. 1-31 from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset with a limit of two turkeys of either sex. Details about fall turkey hunting regulations are found in the 2015 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet available wherever hunting permits are sold, from MDC offices and nature centers, or online at http://on.mo.gov/1KUT1Ro.