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The "Rona" made us better turkey hunters

I think everyone had a little more time to turkey hunt this spring due to the virus. Harvests are way up across the majority of the state. Crazy the jump some counties had this year.

Turkey Harvests 2.jpg

I also created this graph for my own curiosity. I was always told that the bobcats have "done a number on the turkeys." The harvests from each county that are in the bobcat zone (listed below) were totaled and graphed on another line. I know this doesn't tell all but if bobcats truly altered the turkey population then I would suspect the harvests in these counties to go down over time as bobcat numbers have increased (maybe 2007 isn't as early of a data point as what's needed to see this trend).


Graph.jpg

Bobcat zone counties :
Adair
Adams
Appanoose
Cass
Clarke
Davis
Decatur
Des Moines
Fremont
Henry
Jefferson
Keokuk
Lee
Louisa
Lucas
Madison
Mahaska
Marion
Mills
Monroe
Montgomery
Page
Pottawattamie
Ringgold
Taylor
Union
Van Buren
Wapello
Warren
Washington
Wayne
Audubon
Cedar
Cherokee
Clinton
Crawford
Dallas
Guthrie
Harrison
Iowa
 

muddy

Administrator
It didn't make me a better hunter so much as it gave me more opportunities to get out there. The kids and I had a rough 3 weeks there in the middle with more people out turkey and mushroom hunting.
 

sep0667

Land of the Whitetail
Very interesting graph, nice job making those. Some of those counties the trend is a little startling. What is going on in Van Buren county?? Its dropping bad. Lot of the counties that are dropping are east/southeast. Wonder if that is where the turkey disease has started to entered the state. Hope a lot of people are sending in a leg to the DNR to help them better track that. With all the social media platforms/pages out there I don't see much posted about getting or reminding people to do that.
 

Ishi

Turkey Time
FWIW, my farm is in NE Davis County and Van Buren County is about 250 yards away. Van Buren in 2020 is less than half of what it was in 2007 and Davis is at 2/3 of what it was in the same time frame. Frankly, I am surprised to see that the harvest totals now have only dropped by that much. I estimate the population today in my area at 10%-20% of what it was 10'ish years ago.

I will say that the harvest stats only tell part of the story here. I always let some friends hunt turkeys at my place and between the two of them and about 11-13 days of hunting apiece, they did bag a total of two birds out of a possible four. I hunted twice myself and netted zero birds, but did not "hit it hard" and came awfully close to nailing one on one morning, but it was also one of just two that I heard gobbling that morning. I used to hear 15-20+ separate gobblers per morning BB*. (* BB = Before Bobcats)

At my strong urging, my friend did submit his leg(s) for the study...I hope they are able to determine something that can be addressed. Driving around the area at this time of the year, one could see dozens of turks...now on the same route you might see one or two total...or none.
I submitted four turkey legs two from this and two from last year. It’s very easy and they pay the return postage!
 

sep0667

Land of the Whitetail
FWIW, my farm is in NE Davis County and Van Buren County is about 250 yards away. Van Buren in 2020 is less than half of what it was in 2007 and Davis is at 2/3 of what it was in the same time frame. Frankly, I am surprised to see that the harvest totals now have only dropped by that much. I estimate the population today in my area at 10%-20% of what it was 10'ish years ago.

I will say that the harvest stats only tell part of the story here. I always let some friends hunt turkeys at my place and between the two of them and about 11-13 days of hunting apiece, they did bag a total of two birds out of a possible four. I hunted twice myself and netted zero birds, but did not "hit it hard" and came awfully close to nailing one on one morning, but it was also one of just two that I heard gobbling that morning. I used to hear 15-20+ separate gobblers per morning BB*. (* BB = Before Bobcats)

At my strong urging, my friend did submit his leg(s) for the study...I hope they are able to determine something that can be addressed. Driving around the area at this time of the year, one could see dozens of turks...now on the same route you might see one or two total...or none.

I'm sure bobcats absolutely hinder turkeys. A bobacat finding a some young turkey poults i'm sure is an easy snack for them. Bobcats are neat to see, but I would rather hear gobbles and see turkeys.
 

Daver

PMA Member
I'm sure bobcats absolutely hinder turkeys. A bobacat finding a some young turkey poults i'm sure is an easy snack for them. Bobcats are neat to see, but I would rather hear gobbles and see turkeys.

One thing that we saw with some frequency about 4-8 years ago, not so much anymore since the turkey population is so low, is dead ADULT turkeys. These were predominantly found in the late winter while shed hunting or while mowing in the summer.
 

Matthewfox_45

Active Member
Not saying bobcats don’t kill turkeys, but what’s more readily available and easier to catch,kill, and eat...rabbits, songbirds, and mice, or turkeys? I’m thinking there’s another vector causing the turkey population to decline.
 

Matthewfox_45

Active Member
I googled bobcat diet study and found a study done in Iowa. Out of 100 bobcats that had their stomach contents sampled, there was 1 that had turkey. Far more had deer which surprised me. Rabbit was the overwhelming item present. It’s an interesting read.
 

Daver

PMA Member
I googled bobcat diet study and found a study done in Iowa. Out of 100 bobcats that had their stomach contents sampled, there was 1 that had turkey. Far more had deer which surprised me. Rabbit was the overwhelming item present. It’s an interesting read.

Not trying to be argumentative, but what was the time frame that the study examined? I believe it was the fall period...not winter, not summer. It stands to reason to me that bobcats, and all predators, would first take the easy prey in the fall of the year, rabbits and squirrels, etc, and then once there were fewer of them available they would switch to grouped up turkeys in the winter, etc.

There is no study that I am aware of that tracks a bobcat's food preferences for all 12 months of the year. I think they are missing something with the studies that I am aware of. Just my opinion. Although I do also acknowledge that there could, and very well may be, other vectors...perhaps like a disease, etc.
 

JNRBRONC

Moderator
Better? Well, last year I didn’t buy a license. This year did and went out once (unsuccessfully).


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Brett Morris

PMA Member
Had an NWTF biologist on our farm numerous times this spring. She made it very clear the NWTF has not found any data in any state to support bobcats equating to the decline of turkeys. Very few turkeys eaten annually by bobcats. There are several new diseases that are much bigger risks and their outlook isn’t too bright, LPDV being one. Not doom and gloom but certainly not great.
 

Khughes2345

PMA Member
What about owls? Seems easy pickins for an owl to swoop down and knock one right off the roost. They had a turkey biologist on MeatEater podcast few weeks back. Talked all about turkeys and that was one of their main predators.
 

Daver

PMA Member
Had an NWTF biologist on our farm numerous times this spring. She made it very clear the NWTF has not found any data in any state to support bobcats equating to the decline of turkeys. Very few turkeys eaten annually by bobcats. There are several new diseases that are much bigger risks and their outlook isn’t too bright, LPDV being one. Not doom and gloom but certainly not great.

I have also talked with various DNR personnel and also at least one NWTF person over time and had the same conversation with all of them that you had...only when I asked them about their data and what time frame it covered they either didn't know OR were a little surprised when I asked them if a predator such as a bobcat may well prey on some species more or less at various times of the year.

I have heard from multiple people about "The Study" that showed little to no turkey in the diet of the bobs...but while there may be some value to that effort...it by no means is a complete study in my book, as I am pretty sure all, or almost all, of the bobs sampled came from hunter/trapper capture and were taken in November, I think the first two to three weeks of November. I know of no study that sampled stomach contents throughout all 12 months of the year, nor did any of the many DNR/NWTF personnel that I have talked to about this.

In fact, in at least a couple of those conversations I was politely advised that wet springs, of which we have had at different times, were more of a detriment to turkey recruitment than anything. OK...I understand that a wet spring can radically impact nesting success...but a wet spring CANNOT explain a dead adult bird...and during the decline period we found many of them.

I have found, and people that I know well, have found way too many adult turkey, fully consumed, carcasses at other times of the year to dismiss bobcats. It is plausible that a disease killed them and then a coyote or bob or whatever then found them and ate them. So yes, the disease angle is very possible IMO. But even if a disease did take them out, then I find it interesting that we have never found one yet that was dead and not consumed.

So, if it is disease, and not bobs, something with a big appetite has found every single one of those that we have found. While not conclusive, it is very curious to me if it is disease, and only disease, that some larger predator has always found them and eaten them before anyone else can find them. So even if it is ALWAYS disease that kills them...how come their study found essentially no turks in their stomachs? Unless it was coyotes getting every one of the free meals, then the research is taking place during a time of the year where bobs are passing up these freebies. It doesn't add up to me.
 

scottonbuck

Well-Known Member
My biggest concern is lack of hens, without hens we wont have eggs to hatch. Farms i used to see 15-20 hens on i now see 2-3, not good. Next year is not looking promising
from 07-20 the harvest in Van Buren county has reduced by over 50% and that is as prime of turkey habitat as it gets. used to be able to gravel travel and see turkeys everywhere, now your lucky to see any from the road.
 

6x6

PMA Member
My turkey numbers in the Loess Hills are also way down. I still winter a big flock around my standing corn, but you can hear them sounding off every evening from predators around the roosting area. When spring green up comes they disperse to the bare cattle timber pastures around my farm, making it tough hunting at times lately


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Jbohn

Well-Known Member
I found 2 nest walking Switchgrass this year during the season . Eggs in a both where all busted and cleaned out. I would think Coons ? I'M sure all predators play their part. Got to hatch first..
 

jkratz5

Super Moderator
I traveled through Missouri and hunted Kansas this year and have been doing this for the last 10. Turkey population in KS is 20% of what it was 10 years ago and Missouri seems waaaayyyuu down.
I wonder if there is a relation to the southeast part of the state and the disease spreading from the boarding states
 

sep0667

Land of the Whitetail
From the 2019 IA bowhunter survey report:


"Wild turkey observations ranged from a low of 218 birds (95% CI = 173, 263) per 1,000 hours hunted in southeast Iowa (Region 9) to a high of 620 birds (95% CI = 389, 852) per 1,000 hours hunted in northwest Iowa (Region 1). Between 2018 and 2019,wild turkey observations decreased in six of nine regions and the 10-year trend shows long-term decreases in wild turkey observations in six of nine regions, mostly in southern and eastern Iowa (Appendix)."


"Trends in wild turkey observations are increasing in northern and central Iowa but are decreasing across the southern portion of the state. Similar patterns are currently being observed in neighboring states. Both Minnesota and Wisconsin reported growth and expansion of wild turkey populations in recent years, whereas Missouri populations have been declining slightly since 2007. "

The study goes on to cite fecundity (poults surviving) rates are lower than what is needed to sustain or regrow current turkey populations and southeast Iowa has the lowest rates. WI did a study stating that 2.6 poults are needed to stabilize a declining population, and southeast IA is currently only at 0.8. The report does not go on to explain or give thoughts as to why the rates are so low and did acknowledge this has been a long term pattern. With that said, there doesn't seem to be any hope that this trend will correct itself unfortunately.
 

SEIowaDeerslayer

Well-Known Member
I’ll throw some thoughts in here. I hunt turkeys all the way from the SE corner of the state to the NE up in Dubuque county. There is no question that bird populations are thriving in east central Iowa and north and populations are dwindling in the south. River bluffs echo with dozens of gobbles up north and down south you’re lucky if you have a few birds to hunt on a large parcel. The difference I see is habitat.

Southern Iowa is being overrun with invasive species such as bush honeysuckle, autumn olive, and wild rose bushes. Up north there is very little. The invasives down south create a dense understory ideal for predators to hide and ambush, which leads me to believe is the cause of decline in the turkey population.

I’ve been working on an ongoing TSI program for 5 years on a 80 acre parcel in southern Iowa which has mostly consisted of removing the invasive species. In the last 3 years the bird population on that specific piece has rebounded. Invasive understory has been replaced with natural species that keep the habitat suitable for deer but open enough for the turkeys to use their eyes against their predators. There are more birds calling that small piece home than ever before and I’ve been fortunate to reap the fruits of labor a couple of times in the last few years.

I believe the DNR needs to be more vocal on the importance of removing invasive species and create more opportunities for landowners to correct this huge problem. It’s only going to keep spreading and while our deer can adapt to it, turkeys are much less adaptable species and more vulnerable to predation. So I guess my theory is if you want more turkeys on your land in southern Iowa, start by giving them a platform to survive on with the correct habitat. Maybe take the money you would use for a food plot and buy a good chainsaw and some Tordon and start whacking those 20’ honeysuckles.

Let me know if you think I’m nuts. :)
 
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