Missouri’s annual turkey-hunting season begins April 20, but unless you live on Fort Leonard Wood or have a Department of Defense ID card, you’ll need to make plans to hunt off-post this year.
Since April 2, the Fort Leonard Wood iSportsman website, https://ftleonardwood.isportsman.net, has informed visitors that, due to ongoing COVID-19 safety measures, access to the installation is temporarily limited to DoD ID card holders.
Col. Eric Towns, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood commander, outlined the restrictions during the installation’s most recent virtual town hall, which was live-streamed Wednesday on the Fort Leonard Wood Facebook page.
“Normally during the regular hunting season we would allow non-DoD ID card holders to request a pass; we would screen them and then allow them to hunt,” he said. “That has stopped, at least for the turkey season that begins later this month, and for fishing, until this crisis is over.”
Hunting, fishing, hiking and other individual outdoor recreational activities remain open to DoD ID card holders.
The spring turkey season runs through May 10.
Hunters should regularly visit the installation’s iSportsman portal for updates and instructions regarding permits and access to hunting areas.
All persons must check in and out of open hunting areas using the iSportsman system. Check-out and check-in procedures must be completed on the same day access is desired. All recreational users must display their iSportsman six-digit number in a place easily viewable in the front windshield of their vehicle each time they are checked into an area. Hunters should be sure to confirm check-in prior to going afield, and also confirm check-out of the area prior to 10 p.m.
Permits can also be obtained through the iSportsman system.
For the upcoming turkey season, hunters should be sure to have proof of purchase of the required $15 Fort Leonard Wood Sportsman permit and the required Missouri spring turkey hunting permit.
It is the hunter’s responsibility while afield to provide permits for inspection by the post’s Conservation Law Enforcement officer.
Hunters on Fort Leonard Wood – or anywhere in Missouri – should always keep safety in mind while afield, including knowing where other members of your hunting party are at all times and wearing hunter orange.
The main cause of turkey-hunting-related injuries is when hunters are mistaken by other hunters for wild game, according to Reina Tyl, Missouri Department of Conservation turkey biologist.
“Each year, most turkey-hunting incidents typically involve hunters who fail to identify their targets. Unless you are certain that what you’re looking at is a wild turkey, remember that any movement you see or sounds you hear while hunting could be another hunter,” she said.
This year, hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts are also strongly urged to practice social distancing. During Wednesday’s town hall, Towns indicated that failure to abide by social-distancing practices could result in a re-evaluation of hunting and fishing areas remaining open.
“We want to make sure that social distancing is maintained during these activities, which shouldn’t be too hard for turkey hunters,” Towns said. “Please adhere to that, or we may have to reconsider.”
Limits and methods
For the spring turkey hunting season, hunters may harvest a maximum of two male turkeys or turkeys with visible beards. Youth who harvest a turkey during the youth season may not harvest a second bird until April 27.
Allowed methods include shotguns with shot not larger than No. 4, longbows, recurve bows or compound bows, hand-held string releasing devices, crossbows and atlatls.
Prohibited methods include shotguns capable of holding more than three shells in the magazine and chamber combined, shot larger than No. 4, any sighting device that casts a beam of light on the game, thermal-imagery equipment or night-vision equipment, recorded calls, the use of dogs or live decoys.
The use of bait is also prohibited. Under Missouri law, an area is considered baited for 10 days even after complete removal of the bait, and hunters can be in violation of the law even if they are unaware the area was baited.
Missouri has temporarily suspended the need for state fishing permits through April 15.
Those who fish on Fort Leonard Wood are still required to have a Sportsman permit during this time, with the exception of the Big Piney River.
As with hunters, anglers should use the Fort Leonard Wood iSportsman portal to check in and out of fishing areas and obtain the necessary permits.
Schedules subject to change
As with all activities in the COVID-19 era, hunting seasons are subject to change. While Missouri’s hunting seasons are currently ongoing, Towns said the installation would follow the state’s lead if the situation warrants it.
“Of course, we adhere to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources guidelines, so if Missouri reconsiders hunting and fishing (seasons), so will we,” Towns said.