John Burk, the NWTF’s District Biologist for Missouri and Illinois, recently sent me this youth season report. John is one of the most knowledgeable folks in the region and will be bringing us more updates as the spring progresses.
This was the first year of expanded youth turkey hunting opportunity in Illinois that has a north and south zone. Previously,
youth hunters in the south zone got the first crack the last weekend in March and the north zone season followed the first weekend in April…This year the season in the south and north zones ran concurrently on both weekends.
Although the weather was pretty mean to Illinois youth hunters with rain occurring off and on both weekends, they still set a harvest record at 1,541. The previous record set in 2012 was 1,300. North zone hunters took 788 birds compared to 606 last year and South zone hunters took 753 birds compared to 452 last year.
The top harvest counties in the south were: Fayette at 50, Jefferson at 46, and Marion and Union at 41…Top harvest counties in the north were: Pike at 52, Fulton at 42, and Adams at 35.
Missouri’s youth season opens on 4/8/17 and the extended forecast appears to indicate a break in this wet stretch we’ve been enduring lately. Success during youth season or early regular season is dramatically increased if you do a little homework on the front end. Turkey scouting can be a lot like deer scouting; if you can figure out where they roost and feed and get in between those 2 locations you can impress yourself with your calling ability by being where they want to be, regardless if you call or not. Early season gobblers usually have company so intercepting them is a lot more likely than calling up a lonesome one.
When it hasn’t been raining the gobbling has been good in the mornings. I usually only “listen scout” on good mornings because it’s hard enough to do that without a gun and usable tag as it is. I rarely hear birds on rainy mornings or mornings where it rained a lot the night before.
Good luck!…be safe…have fun!
John D. Burk
District Biologist for MO and IL
National Wild Turkey Federation