JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) announces changes to turkey hunting regulations for the spring season and has proposed regulation changes for the fall seasons. The Missouri Conservation Commission approved the changes for the spring season at its Dec. 8 open meeting in Jefferson City and also gave initial approval on proposed regulation changes to fall turkey hunting.
Spring shooting hours for private land only will be extended from a half-hour before sunrise to sunset. Shooting hours on public land will remain a half-hour before sunrise to 1 p.m. These changes will be effective for the Spring 2024 turkey season.
Proposed changes to fall turkey hunting would require both fall firearms turkey hunters and fall archery turkey hunters to purchase a fall turkey-hunting permit. Turkeys would no longer be included in the archery-deer permit. The bag limit would be reduced from four to two birds. These proposed changes will be open for public comment from Feb. 2 through March 2, 2024, under Public Commenting Opportunities at mdc.mo.gov/contact-engage/public-commenting-opportunities.
According to MDC, the primary motivation for the regulation changes is to increase opportunities during the spring season for youth hunters and hunters who work during the day and to reduce the fall harvest while maintaining as much opportunity for hunters as possible.
MDC noted that 93% of land in Missouri is privately owned and 88% of Missouri’s annual spring turkey harvest is done on private land. MDC added that maintaining shooting hours ending at 1 p.m. on conservation areas and other public lands would continue to support multiple afternoon activities by a variety of users on these areas.
“Hunter participation and recruitment has been on the decline in Missouri for several years,” said MDC Turkey Biologist Nick Oakley. “When surveyed on why hunters aren’t participating, the most common answer is that school or work interferes with getting out into the field. By extending shooting hours, a barrier to participation will be removed for those unable to hunt during the morning.”
Oakley added that the 1 p.m. closure during the spring season was originally seen decades ago as a way to help Missouri’s turkey population rebound from a few thousand birds to the several hundred thousand wild turkeys we have today.
“Almost every other state in the Midwest and Southeast moved away from an early afternoon closing time after their turkey populations were restored,” Oakley said. “Those states have seen increases in hunter participation, sustainable increases in harvest, and stable hunter satisfaction after moving to an all-day season.”
The current fall turkey season allows hunters to harvest up to four birds of either sex without a beard requirement. The proposed changes will reduce the number to two birds of either sex.
“While hen harvest is contentious in Missouri, our hen-harvest-rate is low enough that it is not having a negative impact on turkey numbers on a statewide scale,” Oakley explained. “That said, at the property level, hen harvest may have some impact on future production.”
Learn more about turkey hunting in Missouri at mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/turkey.