The NWTF trap and transfer program for wild turkeys contributed to the greatest wildlife management success story in North America, but it is no longer the “go to” solution when wild turkey numbers decline.
Cause and effect
In order to increase turkey numbers we must focus on finding what is causing the declines and continue to address those causes.
Many people blame weather conditions:
- Wet and cold spring weather can cause poor hatches and poult mortality due to exposure
- Cold, wet spring weather can also cause an increase in predation pushing hens to abandon their nests
- Drought conditions reduce the production of optimum food plants and structural cover
Weather may lead to declines, but those declines can be reversed with a series of three to four years of good hatches.
Habitat improvement is key
The greatest threat to wild turkeys is declining habitat quality due to a lack of active management. When climatic events and improper habitat management collide, the ensuing impact can be extremely detrimental to wild turkey reproduction.
Brood and nesting habitat can be created by:
- Prescribed burning
- Improving riparian corridors (habitat in and around rivers and streams)
- Controlling invasive plant species
- Using selective timber thinning
- Managing permanent openings in the forested landscape (so sunlight can penetrate to the forest floor)
- Management of native grasses and forbs through mowing, disking and burning
The key to long-term viability and sustainable turkey numbers lies in habitat improvement.
The goal for continued turkey success is two-fold: conserve wild turkeys by improving and protecting their habitats, and grow the hunt by sustaining those individuals who support conservation and hunting as part of our nation’s vital traditions.