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.
I don't think your nuts, but FWIW I have no bush honeysuckle or autumn olive to remove on my place and very, very little multi-flora rose. I do though have a more dense understory than in years gone by as my timber is thicker these days due to TSI work over the years.