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Turkey Land Management

Turkey Hunting Talk

Turkey Land Management

Postby Bone Collector » Fri May 17, 2019 9:29 am

Enough about harvest #'s, limits, season changes, etc. etc.

I saw this comment in the 2019 success rate thread and was thinking instead of arguing about what changes need to be made (its pretty clear no changes are coming) or whether we think the decline is as bad or not as bad as we personally think, maybe we can have a thread about improving hunting land to assist turkey. I assume in making some of these changes we may help the quail and rabbit as well. I have seen quail on my property in Rutherford county, but it has been a couple of years. I see rabbits from time to time, but it is not like it used to be in the 90s where you literally tripped over them.

Here is a quote from Woodsman04:
woodsman04 wrote:My entire land management strategy is based on turkeys, quail, and rabbits. Deer can live anywhere so I don’t help them.


Maybe he or some of the guys that also follow a similar land management philosophy would like to chime in and give some examples of what they do, to improve habitat for turkeys. Also, list some "Do not's" if you have them.
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Re: Turkey Land Management

Postby Andy S. » Fri May 17, 2019 10:19 am

First requirement is you own the land you are striving to improve and sustain over time. I would say that cancels out majority of all turkey hunters, such as myself.
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Re: Turkey Land Management

Postby Boll Weevil » Fri May 17, 2019 12:28 pm

No can't type this much this fast...had posted it some years ago so just cut and pasted here.

I started out with a primary goal of creating a "turkey factory" and focused on nesting and brood rearing. If you remember the movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids...this must be what it's like for little turkeys. When they hatch they're only about the size of a golf ball; the hen's watchful eye and camouflage is their only defense. A key objective was to help them get past those first several weeks at "ground level" until they could hop up in little trees/bushes and eventually fly to escape ground predators.

During this time they are absolutely bug eating machines so I wanted to create areas that were easy for the poults to move through, havens for insects, and where the hen had good visibility as the lookout. Here's a few things that I believe have contributed greatly to poult production and survival on my place:

1) Burn hedgerows and fencerows periodically to knock back the woody stuff and encourage native plants and grasses. I also now have quail in these places where they weren't before.
2) Discourage fescue where you can; it's just too thick a "vegetative maze" for little turkeys to navigate easily.
3) Strip disk hard field edges and they'll sprout in forbs and grasses that poults can use, but with cover where they can hide. They'll also use these areas for dusting.
4) Establish clover wherever you can and encourage whatever volunteer clover is already growing. In early summer I've parted clover and it is absolutely slam full of crickets but still easier for little turkeys to navigate.
5) The little guys can't scratch; burn areas in stands of bigger timber get rid of the thick mat of pine needles and leaves. It'll resprout in good stuff and make bugs and seeds more accessible.
6) Creating nesting areas by felling cedar trees. Especially along edges where sunlight penetrates, the "skeletons" form a sort of trellis for all manner of vines and grasses to grow up, through, and around.
7) I've lost count how many skunks, armadillos, coons, yotes and possums we've killed. What seemed to yield a little better outcome is focused predator control immediately adjacent your nesting areas. I'm blessed to have a fairly large tract to manage and it would be impossible to rid the property of every nest predator. I can however work to remove egg snatchers from those areas where I know hens are likely to nest.
8) I don't shoot hens...they're at the core of the baby turkey factory. Sure it makes for more competition in the spring but with a large population of hens, there's a far better chance of replacing annual mortality (or even growing your local population).

I've watched hens and their brood stay in these areas literally ALL DAY. I'll go about my days work and there they are at 815am. I come back to get a bite to eat and they haven't moved 80 yards from where I saw them earlier. Same in the afternoon, and when it gets hot they'll just be loafing in shadier spots. In these type areas the hen is comfortable standing guard, poults can move/feed freely, and escape cover is only a few feet away.

I know we've had good hatches in my area the last couple of years but I just could not believe the droves of little turkeys I saw or got pictures of as the summer went on. Even if a hen only had a chick or 2 make it out of the egg, if she can get them through the next several weeks their chance at surviving skyrockets. By the time fall rolled around in the 3rd year of management, I was seeing multiple flocks of 3 or 4 hens and 20-30 jakes/jennies.

Speaking of my own learning with regard to the slow and incremental rebound, I totally underestimated the importance of just 1 or 2 birds raising a brood to the jake/jenny stage. It took years of work and Ma'Nature cooperating but I now appreciate just how difficult it is to get a clutch or 2 hatched out; it's a really BIG deal. In the past I figured a flock of 6-8 hens could surely produce enough little turkeys to sustain the population but considering predation, nest robbers, poult mortality, hunting, I now know better.

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Re: Turkey Land Management

Postby PickettSFHunter » Fri May 17, 2019 12:36 pm

I own 212 acres and try to do what I can with the time I have. Burning, clover, limited trapping, nesting cover, releasing mast trees, etc. Trapping more is what I could improve upon, I just simply can’t do much with my work schedule. Hogs are a big issue in my area also but they are incredibly hard to control. I end up doing a lot of this work and then don’t even hunt my property, I primarily hunt public land but I do still enjoy doing the work.


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Re: Turkey Land Management

Postby Bone Collector » Fri May 17, 2019 1:04 pm

Andy S. wrote:First requirement is you own the land you are striving to improve and sustain over time. I would say that cancels out majority of all turkey hunters, such as myself.



Well I figured that, but I do own 32 acres, so that why I want to know. It is all trees, except the power line easement. I have no equipment of implementations (yet).

The grass on the easement is cut by the TVA, when they want, though i do cut a section before turkey season to give them a place to strut and do their thing.

I've kicked the idea around for years to clear a section of Timber in hopes it will grow up thick and nasty. My hope is that it will attract deer for bedding and turkeys for nesting.

Other than that I have no idea what to do.
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Re: Turkey Land Management

Postby PickettSFHunter » Fri May 17, 2019 1:07 pm

Bone Collector wrote:
Andy S. wrote:First requirement is you own the land you are striving to improve and sustain over time. I would say that cancels out majority of all turkey hunters, such as myself.



Well I figured that, but I do own 32 acres, so that why I want to know. It is all trees, except the power line easement. I have no equipment of implementations (yet).

The grass on the easement is cut by the TVA, when they want, though i do cut a section before turkey season to give them a place to strut and do their thing.

I've kicked the idea around for years to clear a section of Timber in hopes it will grow up thick and nasty. My hope is that it will attract deer for bedding and turkeys for nesting.

Other than that I have no idea what to do.
Doesn’t your area usually have cedar glades? If you have some of that, it’d be great to start there. Cut them down, let them dry out, and run fire through them. You may need to chemically treat the area also.


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Re: Turkey Land Management

Postby Boll Weevil » Fri May 17, 2019 1:11 pm

Eastern red cedar won't stump sprout once cut so shouldn't need to spray (the stump at least).
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Re: Turkey Land Management

Postby PickettSFHunter » Fri May 17, 2019 1:15 pm

Boll Weevil wrote:Eastern red cedar won't stump sprout once cut so shouldn't need to spray (the stump at least).
What I mean is afterwards. It’s difficult to control sapling growth with fire alone, that’s what I was referring to.


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Re: Turkey Land Management

Postby Bone Collector » Fri May 17, 2019 1:16 pm

Boll Weevil wrote:No can't type this much this fast...had posted it some years ago so just cut and pasted here.

I started out with a primary goal of creating a "turkey factory" and focused on nesting and brood rearing. If you remember the movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids...this must be what it's like for little turkeys. When they hatch they're only about the size of a golf ball; the hen's watchful eye and camouflage is their only defense. A key objective was to help them get past those first several weeks at "ground level" until they could hop up in little trees/bushes and eventually fly to escape ground predators.

During this time they are absolutely bug eating machines so I wanted to create areas that were easy for the poults to move through, havens for insects, and where the hen had good visibility as the lookout. Here's a few things that I believe have contributed greatly to poult production and survival on my place:

1) Burn hedgerows and fencerows periodically to knock back the woody stuff and encourage native plants and grasses. I also now have quail in these places where they weren't before.
2) Discourage fescue where you can; it's just too thick a "vegetative maze" for little turkeys to navigate easily.
3) Strip disk hard field edges and they'll sprout in forbs and grasses that poults can use, but with cover where they can hide. They'll also use these areas for dusting.
4) Establish clover wherever you can and encourage whatever volunteer clover is already growing. In early summer I've parted clover and it is absolutely slam full of crickets but still easier for little turkeys to navigate.
5) The little guys can't scratch; burn areas in stands of bigger timber get rid of the thick mat of pine needles and leaves. It'll resprout in good stuff and make bugs and seeds more accessible.
6) Creating nesting areas by felling cedar trees. Especially along edges where sunlight penetrates, the "skeletons" form a sort of trellis for all manner of vines and grasses to grow up, through, and around.
7) I've lost count how many skunks, armadillos, coons, yotes and possums we've killed. What seemed to yield a little better outcome is focused predator control immediately adjacent your nesting areas. I'm blessed to have a fairly large tract to manage and it would be impossible to rid the property of every nest predator. I can however work to remove egg snatchers from those areas where I know hens are likely to nest.
8) I don't shoot hens...they're at the core of the baby turkey factory. Sure it makes for more competition in the spring but with a large population of hens, there's a far better chance of replacing annual mortality (or even growing your local population).

I've watched hens and their brood stay in these areas literally ALL DAY. I'll go about my days work and there they are at 815am. I come back to get a bite to eat and they haven't moved 80 yards from where I saw them earlier. Same in the afternoon, and when it gets hot they'll just be loafing in shadier spots. In these type areas the hen is comfortable standing guard, poults can move/feed freely, and escape cover is only a few feet away.

I know we've had good hatches in my area the last couple of years but I just could not believe the droves of little turkeys I saw or got pictures of as the summer went on. Even if a hen only had a chick or 2 make it out of the egg, if she can get them through the next several weeks their chance at surviving skyrockets. By the time fall rolled around in the 3rd year of management, I was seeing multiple flocks of 3 or 4 hens and 20-30 jakes/jennies.

Speaking of my own learning with regard to the slow and incremental rebound, I totally underestimated the importance of just 1 or 2 birds raising a brood to the jake/jenny stage. It took years of work and Ma'Nature cooperating but I now appreciate just how difficult it is to get a clutch or 2 hatched out; it's a really BIG deal. In the past I figured a flock of 6-8 hens could surely produce enough little turkeys to sustain the population but considering predation, nest robbers, poult mortality, hunting, I now know better.

a.png

Thanks for the Input. I added a question in red below and a couple of comments below that.

5) The little guys can't scratch; burn areas in stands of bigger timber get rid of the thick mat of pine needles and leaves. It'll resprout in good stuff and make bugs and seeds more accessible.How do you go about doing this? I would be afraid to catch the woods on fire.

4) Establish clover wherever you can and encourage whatever volunteer clover is already growing. In early summer I've parted clover and it is absolutely slam full of crickets but still easier for little turkeys to navigate.I've tried and failed, but i will admit I used no equipment and tried to establish clover plots in openings int eh woods. May need to try again somewhere else.

6) Creating nesting areas by felling cedar trees. Especially along edges where sunlight penetrates, the "skeletons" form a sort of trellis for all manner of vines and grasses to grow up, through, and around. I've done this and piled them up in some cases, in hopes that the hens will use them. they have not. It may be because it is not on the edges of the power line easement and light doesn't penetrate well in the woods on my place (to thick).
7) I've lost count how many skunks, armadillos, coons, yotes and possums we've killed. What seemed to yield a little better outcome is focused predator control immediately adjacent your nesting areas. I'm blessed to have a fairly large tract to manage and it would be impossible to rid the property of every nest predator. I can however work to remove egg snatchers from those areas where I know hens are likely to nest.been doing this for a few years and finally found my first nest in an area i trap in a lot. Hopefully it pays off
8) I don't shoot hens...they're at the core of the baby turkey factory. Sure it makes for more competition in the spring but with a large population of hens, there's a far better chance of replacing annual mortality (or even growing your local population). Haven't shot one in years and have no plans to do so.
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Re: Turkey Land Management

Postby Bone Collector » Fri May 17, 2019 1:20 pm

PickettSFHunter wrote:
Bone Collector wrote:
Andy S. wrote:First requirement is you own the land you are striving to improve and sustain over time. I would say that cancels out majority of all turkey hunters, such as myself.



Well I figured that, but I do own 32 acres, so that why I want to know. It is all trees, except the power line easement. I have no equipment of implementations (yet).

The grass on the easement is cut by the TVA, when they want, though i do cut a section before turkey season to give them a place to strut and do their thing.

I've kicked the idea around for years to clear a section of Timber in hopes it will grow up thick and nasty. My hope is that it will attract deer for bedding and turkeys for nesting.

Other than that I have no idea what to do.
Doesn’t your area usually have cedar glades? If you have some of that, it’d be great to start there. Cut them down, let them dry out, and run fire through them. You may need to chemically treat the area also.



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yes i have cedar on my property. One end is pretty much a cedar glade. Then there is cedar dispersed throughout with hardwoods. The areas i have thought of cutting with hopes of creating a thicket are largely made up of cedars.
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Re: Turkey Land Management

Postby Boll Weevil » Fri May 17, 2019 1:45 pm

Afraid of catching the woods on fire is a very healthy thing!! :D

Regarding burning, that's a whole tutorial in itself. Read up on it, take a class, work with or ask to observe a prescribed burn crew, learn as much as you can from foresters but whatever you do don't just go out and drop a match. There's alot to it: preparing firebreaks, wind direction and speed, fuel load and type, humidity, topography, backing vs head fires, flanking...could go on an on. All that being said, once you learn how and under what conditions, develop your burn plans, prepare your breaks, and start small. Make sure you have enough help, water, radios, call in your permit the day before, and don't get in a hurry.

Bigger brushpiles often become havens for nest raiders if they encourage burrowing. As well, they might not let enough light get through so stuff grows up, around, and through them. We just fell and leave'em where they drop...if there's a grove of cedars back in bigger timber usually cutting them all opens up enough of a hole so sunlight gets through and stuff sprouts.
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Re: Turkey Land Management

Postby catman529 » Fri May 17, 2019 6:27 pm

A lot of the good land I’ve hunted for turkey has a lot of rabbits and a few quail as well. And there’s always a lot of deer. A good mix of habitat with some of everything seems to be key.


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Re: Turkey Land Management

Postby woodsman04 » Fri May 17, 2019 11:19 pm

All of the above mentioned is very good talk. The more land you own, the better of course. And I realize and understand everyone cannot do it. I only have about 70 acres. Not a lot, but I want to get a hen or two to attempt a nest on it and hopefully raise a brood.

First of all, there’s got to be turkeys around to make more turkeys, that’s one thing that hurts me, is that this season the area was void and I don’t know why. Most spring and summers we will have two to three long beards in and out and a handful of hens hanging around. This is the first year since 2015 I haven’t had a poult yet on camera, still early but I doubt I get one because I’ve only seen a couple of hens. But maybe we will. My place doesn’t have birds on it until late March, and they stay until August/September. Then they flock up, and migrate to who knows where, I’d say around 10-15 miles north. Then as mid March comes back, birds disperse, and we get them again.

I try to let my grass and weeds grow up, and I try to eradicate all fescue. My fields look like junk, lots of weeds and sage grass. I border my tall grass fields with food plots of clovers mixed with wheat or rye. I will occasionally disk around the edges of food plots, and some years I disk down the middle. A good 5-8 foot wide disked area. I will mow my plots after I think the hatching season is over, but not all at once and not real short. Just knock the tops off. Every two years or so I will bush hog low a section of field, and usually just disk it in and maybe plant it with a cool season annual like wheat/crimson clover. Let it grow back again and repeat cycle.

Common sense says the egg is the most vulnerable part of their lives, and it may be but in my experience it seems like once they hatch within the first week about all of them are gone. One hard rain and it may get 9 of 12. But that is the part we cannot control. Trapping is great, but I think it’s overrated. If you have the right habitat, you will or should attract enough hens to counter the nest thieves. Also, about season timing and structure, those hens will usually attempt a second and sometimes a third clutch.

Next, if you have the right vegetation for the poults to feed in you will find success. They have to be able to catch grass hoppers, but also have enough cover to hide from hawks over head. Cannot be too tall for the hen to see out of though. She sees a hawk, the poults can scatter or freeze. If it’s fescue, they can’t run through it quick enough and get caught. Same with a quail.

God designed bobcats and foxes to prey on poults and quail, but he also designed poults and quail to be able to escape. The man made introduction of fescue and other thick turf grasses for grazing and hay have destroyed a lot of turkey and quail habitat. If you have a good mix of native warm season grasses (broom sedge is easiest for me to grow) along with a few herbaceous or broadleaf weeds you will be able to provide cover from avian predators as well as running areas underneath so that they can flee from bobcats and foxes.

If you can get them to about 12-14 days old, your in good shape because then they can fly and roost in trees at night. (I think 14 days is flying age, I have forgotten.)

Next, the weather needs to be on your side. The older they get the more cold tolerant they get. But I believe at about 7 weeks is when they have gotten rid of all downy feathers and are full plumaged, and are able to create their own body heat. (May have my age wrong here too, but it’s in that neighborhood.)

So once poults make it to August and September, man is about the only thing that gets them.

Predator control is important. But it’s not even in the same stratosphere of importance as habitat. The most important predators to target will be your raccoons, skunks, possums, and I assume armadillos. they are nest raiders and actively search for nest. Your bobcats and coyotes are opportunistic, and will try and catch poults or adults, and will catch some, but I do not believe that these larger predators are very destructive on the turkey population. Think about it. A coyote will go and catch one turkey. A raccoon will find a nest and catch 13 turkey eggs. I have also seen two times, one of each, a bobcat or coyote near turkeys. In the coyote case, the gobbler didn’t even stop strutting and the hens just stood erect watching real close. When the bobcat came near, I didn’t see the bobcat until after the turkeys did. The turkeys all stretched up and started clicking or putting real loud, and eventually I saw a bobcat easing through the woods.

I suggest anyone looking into improve their habitat to look into NRCS programs, get some good turkey biology reads, and also I highly recommend reading the “My Life as a Turkey” journal.




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Re: Turkey Land Management

Postby woodsman04 » Fri May 17, 2019 11:36 pm

Let me re say something. I didn’t mean to say trapping was necessarily overrated. It absolutely works. But it’s best to do as late in the trapping season as you can, and also trap the areas that are the places you think they will nest. Raccoons also move and migrate, and lots of the times new ones move in to get the eggs after you have removed some.

I hate coyotes raccoons and possums. But it ain’t their dang fault. I just don’t get it when you talk to people in town and they like “ it’s all these dang yotes” or “I seen a bobcat cross the road, that’s why the turkeys are gone”

We’ve had predators as long as we’ve had turkeys. The only difference I see now is the trapping and fur market is gone, coon hunting is withering away from lack of private land permission and/or big tracks of land to coon hunt on.

I think big row cropping is bad for turkeys and quail, and I think fescue hayfields are even worse. But there isn’t a dang thing we can do about that.

It still ain’t like it used to be. When I started hunting there was less birds than there are now, so I hope it don’t go back down to that.

I sometimes just for fun, want to blame trophy hunting. People started wanting to grow big antlers. Attention to delicate game animals like turkeys, quail, and rabbits fell to the way side. Too much focus on deer and such.
Maybe CWD will get them all....


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Re: Turkey Land Management

Postby woodsman04 » Fri May 17, 2019 11:54 pm

Also, I don’t have it no where near figured out. You have to be very patient, have some drive, and a lot of luck. But I’m just as happy with seeing a bunch of .2 lb poults as I am a 20 lb two year old on my smoker.


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Re: Turkey Land Management

Postby prstide » Sat May 18, 2019 6:25 am

woodsman04 wrote:Also, I don’t have it no where near figured out. You have to be very patient, have some drive, and a lot of luck. But I’m just as happy with seeing a bunch of .2 lb poults as I am a 20 lb two year old on my smoker.


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You kill poults and put them on your smoker?! For the love of humanity and all things good, please tell me I’ve misread your post????!!!! :shock:
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