Well boys, it pains me to post this but I got shut out in Missouri for the first time since 1994, the first year I went there and we hunted public ground. It's especially painful since this is the first contest and I wasn't able to help the team. In the end, the lack of turkeys and brutal hunting conditions were just too much to offset.
Last year I estimated that there were only 33% of the turkeys on the 450 acre lease that we had only 5 years ago. With four poor hatches in a row ('07, '08, '09 and '10) and the area overrun with bobcats, I now estimate less than 20% of the once booming turkey population remains. Add to that sustained winds of 25+ mph for the entire 6 days I was there, temperatures in the 40s and zero clear mornings. Compound that by zero foilage...the turkeys that remain stayed in the ditches and low areas and could see you from a thousand yards away.
We went six days without seeing a single strutter. NONE. Only 1 tag was filled out of 8 and that was pretty much a bushwhack right after flydown. I saw less than 2 dozen birds in a week, when each of us used to see 4 dozen a day. We deducted that spring is so late in NE Missouri that the breeding hasn't even started yet. With no strutters to go after, no gobbles to follow and no turkeys in the fields it was like hunting ghosts, I now know what it must have been like 30 to 40 years ago before the national conservation efforts paid off.
I think I can safely say that we now have more birds in SW Michigan than remain in NE Missouri which literally used to be the mecca for wild turkeys in this country. It's a real shame as I can't justify the expense of going back there and appears to be the end of an era. Do me a favor and please don't ever take the turkeys in your area for granted...it can all change in a short span of time and it's a sad situation to witness. For those that imagine the NWTF's mission has long been fulfilled, think again. If you're not already an NWTF member, please join to do your part in helping preserve this hunting heritage.
My Michigan season starts tomorrow so I still have faith that I'll tag a bird here. Cheers.
"The joy of living is his, who has the heart to demand it." Teddy Roosevelt