Many Missouri hunters who hoped to get a wild turkey for Thanksgiving dinner will be going to the grocery store for their bird this year.

The fall firearms season, which ran Oct. 1-31, was a dud this year.

Hunters shot only 3,698 turkeys in the month-long season, a big drop from the 6,158 birds shot last year.

Part of that can be attributed to the continued decline in interest in the fall season. While the spring season remains wildly popular, the fall hunt lacks drawing power.

Spring is a time when the turkeys carry on their courtship rituals; when toms respond to calls and put on a show as they strut in. Fall is a time when hunters chase brood flocks and hope to call one of the younger birds in. Not nearly as exciting.

Only 11,696 permits were sold this fall, the lowest total since the Missouri Department of Conservation established the season in 1978.

Several factors worked against hunters this fall. The spring hatch was the poorest it has been in several years, and acorn production was above average, keeping the birds in the deep woods in some parts of the state instead of in the fields, where they are easier to spot.

Hunters still have a chance to put a wild turkey on the Thanksgiving table, though. The archery season continues through Nov. 11, then resumes Nov. 23-Jan. 15.