Missouri Governor’s 14th Annual Juvenile Turkey Hunt

The annual Missouri Governor’s Hunt is a cooperative effort between Governor Mike Parson, the Missouri Conservation Federation, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Missouri Department of Conservation, Friends of the NRA, and private owners.

The 2023 Governor’s Juvenile Turkey Hunt marks the 14thhe year of this special event. The hunt serves as state recognition of the importance of natural resources and outdoor recreation to the citizens of Missouri. It is also a celebration of Missouri’s leadership role in hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation.

From left, Bill and William Eckelkamp and MDC Commissioner Steven Harrison.

The youth began the hunt by attending a turkey information session and turkey singing prior to the youth opening. Newbies learned the basics of hunting call and etiquette, as well as other essential information to keep in mind when chasing wild turkeys. They also had the opportunity to model their shotguns and learn about hunter safety. The dedicated staff of the Missouri Department of Conservation hosted the clinic.

Kendrah Box is pictured with her guide and NWTF Missouri State Chapter President Kevin Hess.

The night before the inauguration, festivities were held at the governor’s mansion. Representatives from partner agencies and organizations spoke briefly about the importance of the event and raised anticipation for the upcoming hunt.

Kensley Bailey and guide and board member of the Missouri State NWTF chapter RL Bennett.

Speakers included Kevin Hess, president of the NWTF’s Missouri State Chapter; Sara Parker Pauley, director of the Missouri Department of Conservation; Gregg Pearre, president of the Friends of the NRA State Fund; Tyler Schwartze, executive director of the Missouri Federation of Conservation; and Rep. Bruce Sassmann, 61street District. The youth then received a one-on-one call from Jim Clark before taking a photo with Pauley and NWTF district biologist John Burk. From there, the youth fanned out across the state to meet with generous landowners and mentors to mark their first turkey tag.

Reece Pearre with his guide Logan Burk.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature threw the youngsters a curveball for the opener, and most of the state experienced high sustained winds for nearly the entirety of the season opener. Sunday, however, brought better weather, and most of those who were able to hunt on the second day experienced the game of turkey hunting as it was designed. In general, the results were good, with eight of the 15 children harvesting birds.

Walker Jeremy with guide and uncle Tyler Schwartze, Executive Director of the Missouri Federation of Conservation.

Statewide, youth harvested 2,566 birds over youth weekend. The top-harvest counties were Osage with 71, Miller with 65 and Texas with 64. By comparison, young hunters logged 2,881 turkeys during spring 2022 youth weekend.

Easton Keeton.

Rep. Sassmann capped the event again this year by making plaques for each kid who harvested turkeys with an official resolution capturing their special weekend.

Tommy Baxter

The event’s enduring success is primarily a product of the overall quality of experiences it has provided to attendees over the years. All hunts throughout the 14-year history of this event have occurred on private land. As organizers, we are indebted to the generosity of the private owners and guides who make it possible each year.

2023 Guides and Landlords included: RL Bennett, Brad Peters, Bill Haag, Sassmann, Steven Harrison, Brandon Butler, Dwayne Lucas, Jim Cihy, Cole Cihy, Schwartze, Tim Taylor, Hess, Logan Burk, David Guerrant, Jake Buxton, Mike Kehoe, Adam Voight, Burk, and Jason Isabelle.

Thanks again to everyone who made this year’s hunt special for the youth of Missouri. Most of the landowners and guides are dedicated members of the NWTF and CFM; without them, this event would not be possible. The extraordinary gift you voluntarily give year after year cannot be repaid. Please know that everyone involved is aware of this and that your efforts are really making a difference to the cherished memories you made possible.