The 2009 fall firearm turkey season that ended last Saturday, proving what most turkey hunters already knew; there are a lot of turkeys in Missouri woods and although there are a few less today than a month ago, the state's turkey flock is in good shape. The fall season, that ran the entire month of October, saw hunters take 8,355 turkeys with Greene County leading the way with 266 birds checked, followed by Webster with 223 and Wright with 215.
If your hunter brought home that turkey, get ready for some tasty eating. Even beginners can create some gourmet delights from the largest of Missouri's game birds.
More families are considering wild game for their Thanksgiving day table. The Pilgrims gave thanks for the bounty of game and harvest of berries, grains and vegetables that they and the native Americans grew, found and hunted for. Game like waterfowl, deer, wild turkey, quail, pheasants and other small game are finding their way to the Thanksgiving table.
When the family gathers at our house for the Thanksgiving holiday, we celebrate a truly American Thanksgiving holiday. Headlining the feast will be a wild turkey that fell to a hunter's arrow. Also on the table will be other wild food gathered from the outdoors, including wild plum and wild grape jelly, persimmon bread, deer roast, wild grape wine and pecan pie.
In addition to the food on the table, fall decor like bittersweet and colorful wild grape wreaths add to the scene and bring back memories of earlier outings in the Missouri woods.
Bob Martin and Sam Lawrence, Harrisonville, opened the quail season last Sunday with a pessimistic view after having seen few coveys the past several years. However, hunting in Ray County north of Richmond, the pair of 70-year-old hunters found three coveys where last season they never flushed a bird.
Lawrence, whose 4-year-old pointer did some excellent work Sunday, said, "Desire to find quail in the field is one of the main things in making for a good quail dog. My pointer, Jake, is very aggressive and has that desire to put quail in the air. I just wish I could take him hunting more often."
Martin said, "We had great weather, good dog work and all the birds we wanted. It was a big surprise after the past few opening days. The landowner had told us he had seen and heard more quail this year than he had for a long time. We had just gotten out of the truck and let out dogs out when my pointer went on point. We flushed a covey of around 15 birds and got the day started like we have back in the good old days.
"Later, we saw Sam's dog act 'birdy' and as we moved in, a big tom turkey took off and scared the socks off both the dog and us. The habitat was made to order for the quail, plenty of cover next to a harvested corn field and several ponds. We may not have another day like that the rest of the year, but it was a great start of the season."
Meanwhile, duck hunters started the middle zone opening Nov. 7 and although there are lots of birds in the area, there is also a lot of water for the ducks.
Ken Davis, manager at the Schell-Osage Wildlife Area, said, "On Monday, the aerial survey counted 2,300 ducks, but by Wednesday, the count was more than 20,000. We have more than enough water to start the season and hunters might find some water in their blinds unlike at the opening of the early teal season when we didn't have enough water. I look for a big opening weekend, but it will slow down after that for awhile."
Duck hunters in the north zone have had mixed results. Where in areas where water and food are available, hunters have taken limits, but other hunters wonder where the ducks went.
A case in point, Jack Thompson, Blue Springs, was hunting near Fountain Grove and had his limit in less than an hour while his son, Tom, who was hunting just a few miles away only saw one small flock of ducks all morning.