Prior to the initial youth-only turkey season in 2001, youths who hunted for turkeys during the spring season were frequently at a disadvantage because they were competing with older hunters who had more experience.

This weekend, as has been the case since Missouri’s youth-only turkey season began in 2001, young turkey hunters will get first crack at bagging a gobbler this spring.

This season, which is for individuals ages 6-15, is this Saturday and Sunday (April 7-8). Young hunters can purchase reduced-price turkey permits, which are half the price of the regular adult firearms permits and are valid for youths ages 6 through 15. The youth-only season comes before the state’s regular spring turkey season, which is April 16-May 6. Young hunters who take a turkey during this weekend’s youth season and also hunt during the regular spring turkey season cannot harvest a second bird until April 23. This is because the bird taken during the youth season counts as the first bird for the first week of the regular season.

As is the case with all youth-only seasons, the purpose of this event is to kindle a hunting spark – and, through that, a greater appreciation of the outdoors – in young hunters. In the case of the youth-only turkey season, this is accomplished by giving them first crack at turkey hunting in advance of the regular spring turkey season

Prior to the initial youth-only turkey season in 2001, youths who hunted for turkeys during the spring season were frequently at a disadvantage because they were competing with older hunters who had more experience. Also, as the season progressed, youths were calling birds that were becoming increasingly wary because they had either been called and/or shot at by other hunters or the birds had at least heard gunfire. Often, the end result was a turkey-less hunt that left the young hunter with a negative impression of a potentially great outdoor activity.

By giving young hunters a jump on their veteran peers, it’s hoped it will increase their chances of success. Though they can’t hunt, adults are encouraged to accompany youths on their hunts and provide advice about hunting strategy, safety and other components of turkey hunting. In these scenarios, the adult has the responsibility to see that his/her young hunting companion is following safe, legal and ethical procedures. For the most part, novice hunters will do what they’re told to do – so it’s up to adults to inform them about proper hunting procedures.

During the youth-only season, hunters may harvest one bird. The shooting hours of the youth season are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset, Central Daylight Saving Time. This differs from the regular spring season where the shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to 1 p.m. CDT. The purpose of the youth season’s increased hunting period is to increase the chances of young hunters having a successful hunt. Like their adult counterparts during the regular firearms turkey season, youth hunters are restricted to killing turkeys with visible beards. Birds taken during the youth season will be checked in through the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Telecheck system. Information on how to use Telecheck is available in the “2018 Spring Turkey Hunting Information” pamphlet. This free publication is available at all Missouri Department of Conservation offices and locations that sell hunting permits.

More information about the youth-only spring turkey season can be obtained at your nearest Missouri Department of Conservation office or at mdc.mo.gov.

Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. For more information about conservation issues, call 417-895-6880.