Just hunted 7 days in Schuyler county. The hunting was absolutely lousy. I got the only bird out of four veteran hunters with over 100 years of combined turkey hunting experience.
I have hunted this area since 1994 and estimate that there are only 33% or less of the birds that there used to be. I have hunted a pasture on our lease for 7 seasons where I literally saw dozens of birds each day feeding and strutting. This year I saw one hen in 7 days. On the highest ridge of the property, I can see 15 hay fields and pastures with binoculars. On a sunny day, at 9:00 a.m., following an all night rain, I saw nothing. Nothing! There should have been dozens of turkeys in the fields drying off. Unbelievable.
The Missouri DNR has stated that there were poor hatches the last 3 years running. I have no reason to doubt this. My local friend told me turkey numbers were way down and for the last two years he wasn't seeing any young turkeys, only adults. In a 7 day hunt on 450 acres, I only saw 2 jakes!
My resident friend, also an avid trapper, hunter and outdoorsman, also says predation is way up. Bobcats have moved into the area in the last 3 to 4 years. He has seen cat tracks in the snow going up a tree without tracks coming back down. A flat spot in the snow a short distance away indicates where the cat landed with a turkey, literally stolen off of the roost.
Additionally, my friend and his buddies used to hunt coyotes all winter long. The poor economy and high fuel prices forced them to sell their hounds and pickups a couple years ago, opting for smaller fuel efficient vehicles and ice fishing instead. With several poor hatches and increased predation gobbling up what few poults there are, it seems that it will take years to reverse this situation.
Missouri used to be the turkey mecca, but I have my doubts now. The bird population here in Michigan is healthier than ever and the reasons to travel to hunt NE Missouri are rapidly evaporating.
I will be most interested to hear reports from other parts of the state to find out if this is a regional crisis.
"The joy of living is his, who has the heart to demand it." Teddy Roosevelt