JEFFERSON CITY, Mo (MDC) - 2009 spring turkey hunting in Missouri kicked off with a youth-only turkey season for Missouri residents age 15 and younger on April 4-5. The 2009 youth-season harvest was down slightly with 2,883 birds checked compared to 2,898 in 2008. Top harvest counties were: Franklin with 96, Osage with 85 and Polk with 61. Franklin County broke its previous record of 94 set in 2007. The Conservation Department issued permits to 19,135 Missouri turkey hunters age 15 and under this year, down from 21,595 in 2008.
Among the youth hunters were 10 from throughout Missouri who participated in the state's first Governor's Invitational Youth Turkey Hunt held in and around Jefferson City. The event was sponsored by the Missouri State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) and the Missouri Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) hosted turkey-hunting seminars on Friday and Saturday afternoons, and Conservation staff and volunteers guided the hunts.
The participating youths, selected by their local NWTF chapters and the Missouri Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus, were: Charlie Boschert, age 11, and Jack Boschert, age 10, of Florissant; Levi Chew, age 11, of Fulton; Thomas Copeland, age 11, of Kirksville; Garrett Jazenboski, age 15, of Chillicothe; Tori McAfee, age 11, of Winona; Chris Payeur, age 11, of Florrisant; Cade Pendergraft, age 12, of Cassville; Laura Richards, age 10, of Columbia; and Morgan Robb, age 12, of Warrenton.
The Invitational Youth Hunt included a special seminar on Friday afternoon at the United Sportsmen's Club in Jefferson City to introduce the youths to their guides and to demonstrate shotgun patterning, discuss hunting regulations and provide hunter safety instruction.
The youths, their guides and parents or grandparents began Saturday morning at 4 a.m. with individual hunts throughout the region. Saturday's weather was comfortable, but high winds resulted in less gobbling.
Governor Jay Nixon hosted a dinner Saturday night at the Capitol to congratulate the young hunters.
Several of the youths returned to the hunt early Sunday morning despite cold and windy weather. Tori McAfee was successful in harvesting a jake in Miller County.
"The goal of the youth-only season is to kindle the turkey-hunting spark in young hunters," said Department of Conservation Assistant Director Bob Ziehmer, who helped to coordinate the event. "While only one young person got a bird, everyone had a great time. The kids were able to learn new skills and experience the thrill of the hunt."