I was hunting first season near Albia and thought there were fewer birds. The cooler weather didn’t help either. Gobblers didn’t seem very fired up. Did anyone see any turkey winter kill?
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There is a Turkey disease that the DNR was requesting hunters to send in the legs for study. I sent them in last year but have never heard the results. Predators are probably very hard on them. Yesterday morning I hunted a spot where I’ve killed several. I never see many there but before fly down there always have been numerous birds gobbling on roost. Yesterday only 6 different birds.What’s the thoughts? Nest raiders like coons, possums, etc ? Coyotes eating nests & young? All of these: trapping been way down for 5-7 years now.
Bobcats are hard on them & I do find some kills likely from them.
What are some of the main ideas you all might think may be leading to this?
This is a subject that I have written about several times over the years here on IW and also have brought up in multiple DNR input meetings. No matter the reason...it is absolutely a fact that there are far fewer turkeys across SE Iowa these days than in the past. I estimate the current population is about 10%-15% of what it was 12+ years ago. The decline has been steep and persistent over the past 10 years or so.Turkey populations are and have been declining all over, especially the Midwest and Southeast, for quite a while now (10 to 15 years). Many states in the Southeast have seen significant population declines and have adjusted their season timing and harvest limits accordingly. Missouri's populations is down. Kansas has lowered their harvest limits in response to lower populations.
Everyone likes to blame predators, and they definately have an impact, but it appears to be more a complex problem than only predators. I was reading some research out of Missouri that indicated nest success (poults hatched) was similar to 20/30 years ago when populations were much higher, which would indicate the impact from nest predators has not changed all that much.
People like to blame predators for the decline in upland birds as well. I am sure predators are a large part of the problem there too. There is quite a bit of research being done to try to address the decline, and it is happening now, but I have not seen where any conclusions have resulted yet as to why the populations are decreasing.
Per research and some experts they are saying nest success (poults hatched) in similar to years ago, but poults per hen is down. During the heyday I believe, and correct me if I am wrong, I believe they were seeing 4 to 5 poults per hen. Now we are down around 2. Again this is just from memory as I have been reading/listening to podcasts on this and don't have the numbers in front of me.
I just looked at the bowhunter observation survey here in Iowa and the turkey numbers trend noticeably down in SW, SC, and SE Iowa since 2008. Only NW Iowa is trending up. I hunted turkeys quite a bit in NE Iowa 5 to 10 years ago. There were more birds there than SC Iowa where I hunt now. NE Iowa has been steady, but the last few years are concerning.
I wonder about habitat and if the changes in agricultural practices and land management have impacted things. I also think we may not have a good understanding of what good habitat for turkey, or upland birds for that matter, really is. Around here managing properties for deer hunting is the goal. I wonder if turkeys have different habitat needs. I also wonder if the increase in bobcats is having an impact.
The Hunting Public just put out a video and podcast with Dr. Mike Chamberlain. He is a turkey biologist in Georgia who has been studying this extensively. It is a good listen if you are so inclined.
This is a subject that I have written about several times over the years here on IW and also have brought up in multiple DNR input meetings. No matter the reason...it is absolutely a fact that there are far fewer turkeys across SE Iowa these days than in the past. I estimate the current population is about 10%-15% of what it was 12+ years ago. The decline has been steep and persistent over the past 10 years or so.
I think there are many potential factors at play and I do suspect bobcats are a significant part of the issue, although that is not generally accepted by multiple and various DNR staff. We have had multiple conversations on the matter and almost to a person, they hold firm that the problem is not bobcats. I still think that it is...at least to a degree.
One key reason for me to suspect bobcats is that 5-7 years ago, when there still some turkeys around, we were finding carcasses, often fresh, of ADULT turkeys...not poults, not wrecked eggs/nests, etc. At the time we started seeing that, it correlated exactly with increased bobcat sightings, etc. Every dead adult that we found had been "cleaned up" down to the skeleton. It is certainly plausible that these turks died of some other cause, perhaps a disease, and then the carcass was found and consumed by one or more predators and that may be. But at the time that we began to see that, I had been in the turkey woods for about 35 years of my life and had never found a dead adult bird in my life. Now...(or then, as in 5-7 years ago) we are finding multiple per DAY????
I am not persuaded that the steep decline is habitat related, nor do I suspect weather to a large degree. I am curious about farming practices that result in fewer grasshoppers and bugs for turks to forage on...but don't have the "science" to reinforce that idea. I am curious about the idea of there being a disease that is impacting them...perhaps that is why we found dead adults??
12+ years ago I could hear 10-20, and oftentimes more, gobblers just about any day in the spring...now...I hope to hear two or three with at least one of those within 1/4 mile. Something has definitely changed.
Some good points here. But, do you think it is possible to kill so many toms that there are not enough left to breed all the hens? Seems a huge population drop would need to include hens, nests, or poults not surviving.I’m going to be that guy. Iowa harvested turkeys are up significantly from years prior, if my memory stands corrected; it was the largest harvest ever recorded. More snd more people getting into the sport every year. More competition. More birds killed. Decoys, tactics, YouTube, etc. people can become experts overnight. Mix in all the guys who strictly fan turkeys. I know people who couldn’t work their way around the turkey woods, let alone operate a call; yet they’re killing 2 toms every year. The moment youth season opens until season closes I would say vast majority of iowa is getting hunted. Seems odd the places where no hunting is allowed there seems to be pockets of unbelievable bird numbers. I think there are obviously other factors playing into this. But I definitely believe we are just as much to blame as Mother Nature.
As others have already stated, Dr. Mike chamberlain; bird biologist from Georgia has done extensive, extensive research. Their findings are saying the dominant Tom is the breeder. One he’s been killed, it takes some time for the next bird to become Topdog. Guys who are reaping birds, are targeting majority of the time; that dominate bird. Therefor, since I’m a betting man; more toms are getting killed that fit that mold. We have had 2 excellent springs followed by mild winters (excluding 2020/2021) yet bird numbers continue to drop. I understand there’s other aspects to this equation. But from my opinion and what I’m seeing, this factor is coming from humans snd pressure. Even Mike, being the avid turkey hunter he seems to be, made some comments on his podcasts about numbers of hunters and the available populations of birds. Social media has made everyone and their dog a turkey hunter. Good, bad or indifferent I think it’s an issue. Selling more licenses isn’t doing anything to increase the population.Some good points here. But, do you think it is possible to kill so many toms that there are not enough left to breed all the hens? Seems a huge population drop would need to include hens, nests, or poults not surviving.