14th Annual Missouri Governor’s Youth Turkey Hunt

The Annual Missouri Governor’s hunt is a cooperative effort between Gov. Mike Parson, the Conservation Federation of Missouri, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Missouri Department of Conservation, Friends of the NRA and private landowners.

The 2023 Governor’s Youth Turkey Hunt marks the 14th year of this special event. The hunt serves as the state’s recognition of the importance of natural resources and outdoor recreation to the citizens of Missouri. It is also a celebration of Missouri’s leading role in recruiting, retaining and reactivating hunters.

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

The youth started the hunt by attending an informational session on turkeys and turkey calling prior to the youth opener. The novices learned basics of calling and hunting etiquette, as well as other essential information to be aware of when pursuing wild turkeys. They also had an opportunity to pattern their shotguns and learn about hunter safety. The dedicated staff at 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 opener, festivities took place at the governor’s mansion. Representatives from the partnering agencies and organizations spoke briefly about the event’s importance and elevated the anticipation of the upcoming hunt.

Kensley Bailey and guide and NWTF Missouri State Chapter board member R.L. Bennett.

Speakers included Kevin Hess, NWTF Missouri State Chapter president; Sara Parker Pauley, Missouri Department of Conservation director; Gregg Pearre, Friends of the NRA State Fund chairman; Tyler Schwartze, executive director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri; and Rep. Bruce Sassmann, 61st District. The youth were then each given a custom call made by Jim Clark before taking their picture with Pauley and NWTF District Biologist John Burk. From there, youth dispersed across the state to meet with generous landowners and mentors to notch their first turkey tag.

Reece Pearre with his guide Logan Burk.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature threw the youth a curveball for the opener, with most of the state experiencing heavy sustained winds for nearly the entirety of the season opener. Sunday, though, brought better weather, and most of those who could hunt the second day experienced the turkey hunting game as it was designed. Overall the results were good, with eight out of the 15 kids harvesting birds.

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

Statewide, youth harvested 2,566 birds during the youth weekend. Top harvest counties were Osage with 71, Miller with 65 and Texas with 64. In comparison, youth hunters checked in 2,881 turkeys during the 2022 spring youth weekend.

Easton Keeton.

Rep. Sassmann put a cherry on top of the event again this year by having plaques made for each kid that harvested turkeys with an official resolution capturing their special weekend.

Tommy Baxter

The perennial success of the event is primarily a product of the overall quality of the experiences it has provided participants 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 private landowners and guides that make it possible every year.

The 2023 guides and landowners included: R.L. 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 Missouri’s youth. Most of the landowners and guides are dedicated NWTF and CFM members; without them, this event would not be possible. The extraordinary gift that you willingly give year after year cannot be repaid. Please know that all involved are aware of this and your efforts truly are making a difference in the cherished memories that you made possible.

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