Missouri has recorded a serious decline in wild turkey numbers over the past couple of decades. As a response, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has announced a significant reduction in the harvest limits for fall turkey hunters. 

The MDC’s recent announcement shows that wild turkey declines aren’t limited to the Deep South and the Southeast. In fact, Show Me State brood survey results show notable statewide declines in the poult-to-hen ratio in recent years compared to the 1980s and 1990s—a key indicator for wild turkey production. 

Hunting Conservation photo

“Unfortunately, the number of poults produced per hen each year has been on a long-term declining trend for several decades,” wildlife biologist Reina Tyl, told Field & Stream in 2022. “This has led to fewer turkeys on the landscape than what folks were used to seeing.”

The MDC recorded its highest poult-to-hen ratio in 1967. That year, there were nearly five poults to every hen counted. The numbers have continued on a downward trend since then, reaching a marked low in 2015 and 2016 when the count came in at less than one poult per hen. In 2023, the ratio rebounded slightly to just above 1.5.

In an April 8 press release, the MDC said that “the changes to fall turkey hunting regulations aim to reduce the fall harvest while maintaining as much opportunity for hunters as possible.” That’ll include cutting hunters’ fall bag limits from four turkeys to two either-sex birds. Archery hunters will also be required to purchase a turkey hunting permit under the new regs; previously, fall archery tags for turkeys were lumped in with the purchase of an archery deer license. 

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Meanwhile, the MDC also increased some access by changing regulations to allow hunting until a half-hour before sunset, instead of 1 p.m., on private lands during the spring season. Those changes will be effective for the state’s Spring 2024 season, which begins on April 15 and runs through May 5.