Why it Matters: The opinions of hunters often play an important role in adjusting hunting regulations to achieve hunter satisfaction and, most importantly, meeting the conservation needs of culturally and economically important game species. Recent efforts to understand hunter perspectives in Missouri represent this notion in action, likely to result in positive changes for the Show-Me State’s turkeys and turkey hunters.
- The Missouri Department of Conservation is in the final days of a comment period in on several possible changes to the state’s turkey hunting seasons.
- Turkey harvest, often used to evaluate the population’s status, has shown declines throughout much of the country, most often associated with lack of quality habitat. In Missouri, when corrected for hunter effort, harvest has been stable for the past several years, suggesting that the population may be able to sustain increased opportunities for hunters.
- Proposed ideas include changes to fall harvest structures and, most notably as it relates to hunter opportunities, the expansion of the spring season to include all-day hunting.
At the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), we regularly defer to state fish and wildlife agencies as the entities best equipped to make wildlife management decisions. When contrasted against ballot box biology, seen recently through efforts to impose changes to hunt and fishing regulations via ballot initiatives, it is important to acknowledge that agency-led conservation decisions do take public opinion into account. As the stewards of our public trust resources, state agencies take this obligation to heart.
Recently, this opportunity for public involvement has been on display in the Show-Me State as the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) seeks hunter input on a variety of potential changes to Missouri’s turkey hunting seasons and bag limits. Keep in mind, these options are not formally proposed regulatory changes, and no immediate impacts on turkey hunting are expected.
With the spring turkey harvest representing a relatively accurate metric against which turkey populations are assessed, it is no surprise that hunter input is playing an important role in mapping the future of turkey hunting in the Show-Me State. While habitat availability and connectivity continue to be cited as primary reasons behind declines in turkey populations throughout much of the Eastern United States, Missouri’s harvest data suggests that, when controlled for hunter effort, the population has remained stable for many years. However, hunting participation has declined. To address this, one proposed option includes the removal of Missouri’s current hunting hours during the spring season, opening the door for potential all-day spring turkey hunting in the near future. Given the boost that this would present relative to hunting opportunities and the lack of biological impact that all-day hunting is believed to have on turkey populations (save for increase harvest opportunity), this could be a great win for turkey hunters.
This opportunity for public input demonstrates the value that MDC places in the opinion of user groups, such as hunters, who play a pivotal role in understanding and managing turkey and other game populations. CSF looks forward to working with MDC and partners to advance opportunities for turkey hunters in the Show-Me State.