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Know the rules before setting off on turkey hunt
Missouri's fall firearms turkey season opens Monday and runs through October 27. The season is open in all counties except Dunklin, McDonald, Mississippi, New Madrid, Newton, Pemiscot, and Scott.
Last year about 30,000 licensed hunters bagged 13,554 turkeys during the 14-day season. Southeast Missouri accounted for 1,027 of that total. St. Francois County led the state with 208 birds checked.
Other county totals include Bollinger (145); Cape Girardeau (123); Perry (118); Stoddard (84); Ste. Genevieve (80); Madison (76); Wayne (71); Iron (64); Butler (40); and Reynolds (18).
The bag limit during fall firearms turkey season is two turkeys of either sex. Hunters can take only one turkey during the first week of the season. After that, they may take only one turkey a day, up to the season limit of two. Youth hunting on a youth deer and turkey hunting permit can take only one turkey during the fall season.
Hunters pursuing fall firearms turkey are limited to a shotgun or longbow/compound bow. If using a shotgun, you are restricted to a shot not larger than No. 4 and your shotgun cannot be capable of holding more than three shells in the magazine and chamber combined. In addition, you must affix the "Be Safe" sticker to the receiver of the gun so it will be in your line of sight when shooting. The sticker must be maintained on the gun while hunting.
Turkeys must be checked at an established checking station by the actual taker in the county where taken or an adjoining open county no later than 8 p.m. on the day taken.
For additional information, consult the 2002 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Information brochure, available from permit vendors statewide. Fall turkey hunting is different from the spring hunt.
During the fall, there is little or no gobbling activity and gobblers are in small flocks (3 to 10 birds), while hens and young of the year are together in large flocks (10 to 20 birds). It is not unusual to find two to three hens together with all their young.
The basic strategy for fall turkey hunting is to find and break up a flock, scattering them in all directions. Then locate yourself as near as possible to the spot where you broke up the flock and wait 15 minutes. Gobblers can be called back by using clucks and coarse yelps.
Hens and young birds can be called back using hen yelps or kee-kee run calls. Young birds usually will return within an hour while an older gobbler may take 3 or 4 hours.
Hens and their young tend to vocalize a lot as they return. Old gobblers tend to return silently.
Fall turkey hunting can be an extremely enjoyable experience.
The sight and sounds of 20 to 30 turkeys returning to you from all directions can be as exciting as calling in a spring gobbler. However, the fall firearms turkey season has the potential to be more dangerous than the spring because either sex may be hunted. Therefore, less emphasis is put on positive identification. Remember to follow the basic rules of safe turkey hunting.
A hunter orange band, wrapped around the bird to keep it wings from flopping, helps make your walk out of the woods a safer one. If you don't want to make or purchase an alert band, try using a hunter orange vest. A little precaution may keep your bird from being shot a second time -- and you with it.
Gene Myers is an agent for the Missouri Department of Conservation.