How to Manage Your Property for More Turkeys
Turkey season may have just ended, but if you are anything like me, then turkeys are probably still on your mind. Summers can seem dull and uneventful for a lot of hunters, especially if they do not enjoy spending time on the water with a rod and a reel.
But do not fear. The time for counting down the days until next season is not yet near. Instead, this is the perfect time to start managing your land to help keep a strong population of birds around for years to come and to make future seasons better than your last. As the old saying goes, “If you build it, they will come.” Today we’re going to learn how to attract wild turkeys to your property for hunting season. So, grab your 4×4, a torch, and some bug spray and let’s get to work.
Let’s Talk Diversity
In order for your property to truly be a turkey haven, you need to make sure that you have plenty of diversity. In particular, this means you need a combination of both fields and woodlands, each of which serves a special role. Fields can be turned into food plots while clear cuts can be used by turkeys as travel corridors as they move about your property. Naturally, water is a must as well, but diversity across the landscape can be just as important, especially when neighboring properties offer nearby water sources.
Your property’s overall plant life diversity also needs to be evaluated with tree species being top priority. Having the right or wrong types of trees can make or break your property’s ability to hang onto birds all year long. A quarter to a third of your property’s tree life should consist of hardwoods, which offer great roosting opportunities as well as acorns that serve as a food source for turkeys in the fall and winter. Mast producing hardwoods have been shown to have a direct correlation with the number of turkeys a property may hold, so their importance can’t be understated. Finally, a healthy sprinkling of soft mast producing foliage will give turkeys other food sources throughout the year.
Fire is one of those elements that has always played a massive role in ecological development since the beginning of time. Lately though it has taken on the role of an old, rusted wrench that you never take out of your toolbox, because you just went out and bought a shinier one to replace it. Despite what you may have heard, controlled and planned fires are not a danger and can bring massive changes to your property to help create a habitat more welcoming for wildlife.
Okay, so now that we have established that fire is good, safe, and natural, what exactly does it do? Prescribed burns reduce the amount of undesirable vegetation in a landscape and illicit new growth. Dormant season burns help maintain an open canopy and proper nesting elements, while growing season burns attack mid growth vegetation thus allowing the expansion of grasses and forbs that serve as summer food for turkeys. Studies have shown that hens prefer to nest in areas that were burned within a two-year time frame as these burns allow just enough regrowth and cover to hide their poults while also allowing the hen to see any potential incoming predators.
Predation Low Down
Being a turkey is no easy feat. In fact, immediately upon being laid as an egg the odds are against you. Between 10-40% of broods/nests laid will hatch successfully. Of those poults that hatched successfully, less than half will survive their first 2 weeks of life. Predators are not the sole reason for population loss as disease also plays a major role, but knowing what different species have turkeys on the menu and putting a plan in place to help manage them may just lead to more successful poults on your property.
Raccoons, opossums, coyotes, skunks, hawks, and owls all are viewed as major predators to turkeys throughout different stages of their lives. Due to the number of different species and their overall abundance across most of the U.S., it can be quite a daunting feat to try and eradicate them from your property. Predator populations can recover rapidly as well, which means that you will never truly be rid of your turkey snatchers. Knowing this means that you need to think smarter about how and when you try to control predator populations on your property. Predator control has been most beneficial when landowners focus their efforts during pre-nesting time frames in the spring to help improve local broods’ chances of survival.
History will tell us that as a species we have caused more harm than good when looking at our lasting effects on habitat and wildlife around us. The wild turkey is the perfect example of this. It was a species that we nearly extirpated but has now come to flourish again across most of the US. This rebound in turkey numbers came through the efforts of conservationists and hunters through habitat management amongst other actions. Most of these efforts took place on small properties similar to the one that you may find yourself hunting every spring.
Make the most of your property by following some of the above guidelines and help build a habitat that any boss tom would love to live in. Oh yeah, and deer seem to love all of these changes too (hint, hint).
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