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Turkey population…

Sligh1

Administrator
Staff member
I am not a Turkey hunter!!! Never killed one in spring.
Son & I went out today. He loves hunting so we will learn. Gobblers all over. They would go off in distance with hens. Piles of them. I’m GUESSING 20 or so Tom’s across a few fields. I thought “holy cow- tons of turkeys as usual”.
Buddy of mine was talking to me about this. Said it’s down all over the country. Bad. Asked me what I was doing since I had so many. I guess I knew it was down but maybe it’s worse than I thought???

We’ve killed literally hundreds of coons, possum & skunk every year now. HUNDREDS. Get folks to trap & last year we got depredation tags. Many Hundreds per year- gone. (Actually not that much work). Coyotes & bobcats also got thumping. Along with a lot of crp addition. So- cover + less predators = a lot of birds is the simplicity I come up with. Seems common sense basic but …. Thoughts?
When I had 4-5 guys asking to trap non stop until maybe 2014 …. & then shortly after - NO ONE TRAPPED….. it’s just got to play a HUGE part!!! Think of this…. Block after block- little to no trapping for 6-8 years- yikes!!!! Why a section can have “400 coons killed” in a year. I personally think these general areas are so infested with nest raiders & predators it’s crazy. What you think?
Is it really bad across country for birds? As bad as folks are saying? Other reasons???

It’s not “just habitat” …. Can’t be. I see a lot of crp fields & “few to no pheasants” for example. Or turkeys according to many. Maybe the bird flu & disease also playing a role. My hunch is, nest predation & predators are #1 reason. I am not a Turkey hunter but I dont want to see these rascals devastated either. My place is loaded with birds - Insane amount & I think I know why.

Thoughts, what seeing, expertise & experiences out there with you all?
 

bigbuckhunter88

PMA Member
Not an expert by any means but I think predators, more people in the woods and a the whole dominant turkey philosophy have something to do with it.
The more people in the woods theory is people doing work or mushroom hunting. Kicks a hen off a nest and goes over to investigate. Every predator or critter that follows the human scent then ends up at the nest.

The dominant turkey deal has to do with reaping or turkey hunting in general. There is a theory that the dominant Tom does the majority of the breeding and the subordinate toms don't do much. So when the dominant birds are getting shot on a more regular basis due to reaping it is believed that is harmful.
I'm am not the original theorist on any of these, just theories I've heard on podcasts or shows from turkey hunters from all over and researchers.
 

jkratz5

Super Moderator
Habitat and predators play a huge role. That being said in some areas it was almost like a light switch and the mature birds, including hens disappeared. Definitely something else going on. The area we go to in Kansas went from flocks of 100s and farms with 20gobblers to flocks of 10 and 1-2 gobblers in about 3 years. This is not just 1 farm or area either, this is across 3 counties and probably 15,000 acres of huntable ground, all of them with the same outcome. I cannot figure out where all the mature hens went, literally 80% just vanished

My gut tells me disease but I have been researching this off and on for a few years. While nothing is conclusive there are quite a few studies showing decently high levels of pesticides and insecticides in tested wild turkeys and reported deaths.

Something along the lines of disease, poisoning, etc has to be responsible for the adult bird decline in just a few years IMO
 

Obsessed

Well-Known Member
Careful. A few years back, I tried to tie decreased pheasant populations to decreased fur prices / trapping interest, and was nearly hung up by my toes.

I let the conversation die, but didn't change my mind. Decrease the predators and birds will flourish.

Good thing about coon population explosions, is that Mother Nature runs distemper through roughly every 7 years and wipes em out.
 

Sligh1

Administrator
Staff member
Careful. A few years back, I tried to tie decreased pheasant populations to decreased fur prices / trapping interest, and was nearly hung up by my toes.

I let the conversation die
What happened? Explain. That’s crazy. Ain’t gonna happen here!
 

Hawk32

Active Member
There was a great podcast done by a biologist from Missouri I believe a few years ago that went into great detail on the declining turkey population across the county. I tried to find it and post it but I couldn't find it. They went into a lot of detail on predators and nesting issues. They went as far as radio collaring turkeys and predators both and would put cameras up in known roosting trees. The percentage of eggs laid vs the amount of birds that survive to 2 years old was astonishingly low. I don't remember a lot of the details but I remember them saying one of the biggest predators of adult turkeys in the spring was great horned owls. I thought that was interesting. Of nesting predators skunks, fox and opossums were the worst. Coons actually were not. Their findings were that coons didn't actively hunt for nests they were more opportunist while others actually hunted for nests. How they could prove that I have no idea. I just remember that part. Me personally I agree with lack of trapping/hunting and increased population of predators, mainly increase in bobcats. Follow the timeline as bobcat populations increased across the state turkey pop started to decline. Then throw in the reaping and increased kill percentage and here we are.
 

Daver

PMA Member
Habitat and predators play a huge role. That being said in some areas it was almost like a light switch and the mature birds, including hens disappeared. Definitely something else going on. The area we go to in Kansas went from flocks of 100s and farms with 20gobblers to flocks of 10 and 1-2 gobblers in about 3 years. This is not just 1 farm or area either, this is across 3 counties and probably 15,000 acres of huntable ground, all of them with the same outcome. I cannot figure out where all the mature hens went, literally 80% just vanished

My gut tells me disease but I have been researching this off and on for a few years. While nothing is conclusive there are quite a few studies showing decently high levels of pesticides and insecticides in tested wild turkeys and reported deaths.

Something along the lines of disease, poisoning, etc has to be responsible for the adult bird decline in just a few years IMO
^^ This. Certainly predators can impact a population, particularly nest predators. But...and this a giant component to what has happened IMO...back when the populations started to decline so noticeably, we were also frequently finding dead ADULT turkey carcasses. Now there are so few that there may still be some adults perishing, but we just don't see a lot of sign of them anymore.

There are still a few around, but I would say that our area has 10% of what it used to have. I was at my farm yesterday and went into town and back, etc, and saw two hens all day. 10+ years ago...I would have seen 20, easy, and many more if it was raining out.

Raccoons and possums did not kill the adult birds, yes, they can sure limit nesting success, but that cannot be the only key thing at play here.
 

CurtisWalker

Moderator
Great post I’m actually surprised Skip would be one to bring it up. I know his opinions on turkeys. I will say the turkey populations are definitely down in the areas I’ve hunted compared to even 4 years ago. Even on Skip’s farm it’s not what it used to be. It used to blow my mind the sheer number of turkeys I’d here there. I did notice way more hens than I usually do this year and more jakes. So hopefully that’s a good sign.

If I remember from college birds also have the ability to determine the sex of their offspring and it’s influenced by the pressure of other birds so if there’s less males one year the hens will produce more males. Which is actually pretty cool but I can see it being bad if male chicks dominate a hatch. That’s a years worth of chicks that don’t produce a brood the following year.

I see nest predation being a huge limiting factor especially now that fur prices have plummeted. It blew my mind the number of coons I saw last summer. I read above that coons are an opportunistic nest predator but even so when the number of coons increase so does the chances one stumbles across a nest.

The other thing is habitat. With fire retardation being our nation’s number one forest management technique prime turkey nesting habitat continues to diminish. I think the tsi Skip and other wildlife farmers do helps with nesting habitat. But if they wanted to really boost it they could do prescribed burns in the timber. Helping produce more lush green growth.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Hardwood11

It is going to be a good fall!
The turkeys in my area of Minnesota were crushed by the bird flu back about 7-8 years ago. The local domestic flocks were killed and they left the dead birds outside to compost …worst smell ever. Made you sick.

It had a big impact. Slow recovery for turkeys since then, I hope it doesn’t hit again.
 

Obsessed

Well-Known Member
What happened? Explain. That’s crazy. Ain’t gonna happen here!
I got blasted by guys claiming habitat was the main issue and hunting pressure was the remaining iissue. Predation had little to no impact. I was way outnumbered and didn't have much scientific documentation to support my position, so I threw in the towel.
 

Muskrat24

Well-Known Member
I am not a Turkey hunter!!! Never killed one in spring.
Son & I went out today. He loves hunting so we will learn. Gobblers all over. They would go off in distance with hens. Piles of them. I’m GUESSING 20 or so Tom’s across a few fields. I thought “holy cow- tons of turkeys as usual”.
Buddy of mine was talking to me about this. Said it’s down all over the country. Bad. Asked me what I was doing since I had so many. I guess I knew it was down but maybe it’s worse than I thought???

We’ve killed literally hundreds of coons, possum & skunk every year now. HUNDREDS. Get folks to trap & last year we got depredation tags. Many Hundreds per year- gone. (Actually not that much work). Coyotes & bobcats also got thumping. Along with a lot of crp addition. So- cover + less predators = a lot of birds is the simplicity I come up with. Seems common sense basic but …. Thoughts?
When I had 4-5 guys asking to trap non stop until maybe 2014 …. & then shortly after - NO ONE TRAPPED….. it’s just got to play a HUGE part!!! Think of this…. Block after block- little to no trapping for 6-8 years- yikes!!!! Why a section can have “400 coons killed” in a year. I personally think these general areas are so infested with nest raiders & predators it’s crazy. What you think?
Is it really bad across country for birds? As bad as folks are saying? Other reasons???

It’s not “just habitat” …. Can’t be. I see a lot of crp fields & “few to no pheasants” for example. Or turkeys according to many. Maybe the bird flu & disease also playing a role. My hunch is, nest predation & predators are #1 reason. I am not a Turkey hunter but I dont want to see these rascals devastated either. My place is loaded with birds - Insane amount & I think I know why.

Thoughts, what seeing, expertise & experiences out there with you all?
Feel fortunate because most places around me in NW MO and SW IA are in bad shape. 10 years ago it was nothing to hear and see what you are talking about. Our slip in population started before the boom in predators and nest raiders. Poor hatches for some reason. Lots of articles and speculation from neonictinoids to disease. I personally feel it has something to do with reproduction cycle. Used to see broods of 6-10. Now 2 per three or four hens. So they successfully nested but only a couple chicks.
 

Muskrat24

Well-Known Member
Habitat and predators play a huge role. That being said in some areas it was almost like a light switch and the mature birds, including hens disappeared. Definitely something else going on. The area we go to in Kansas went from flocks of 100s and farms with 20gobblers to flocks of 10 and 1-2 gobblers in about 3 years. This is not just 1 farm or area either, this is across 3 counties and probably 15,000 acres of huntable ground, all of them with the same outcome. I cannot figure out where all the mature hens went, literally 80% just vanished

My gut tells me disease but I have been researching this off and on for a few years. While nothing is conclusive there are quite a few studies showing decently high levels of pesticides and insecticides in tested wild turkeys and reported deaths.

Something along the lines of disease, poisoning, etc has to be responsible for the adult bird decline in just a few years IMO
Same story with us. Used to count 100+birds in a flock during winter and used to see a couple of those in a couple mile radius. Now your a lucky to find winter flicks of more than 15-20 birds. The decline in turkey population is real news. Lots of industry concern and work going into it lately. Drurys have talked about it on there heavily managed properties also.
 

bwese

Active Member
The same thing has happened in NE as well. Turkey numbers have plummeted. Conversations with state wildlife guys says they are seeing it all over and have no idea why it is. Lots of theories but nothing concrete.

Everywhere I have hunted turkeys I have seen them go down rows of newly planted corn or beans and dig out the seed. Just a theory but I believe, based on warnings on seed bags about disposal of seed that ingesting this seed can't be nothing but bad for the critters who eat it.

This coupled with predators and bird flu can't do anything positive for the numbers.

As far as pheasants go, in NE crp has greatly decreased in the last 15 years and so has the bird population. Road ditch to road ditch farming with anything that was suitable nesting habitat has been turned into corn and beans. Tough to build or even maintain a pheasant population with those developments.
 

sep0667

Land of the Whitetail
I would bet its a combination of all the factors mentioned, not just one thing.

In no particular order:

-predators, with fewer trappers than ever there are more coons, possums, skunks, yotes, fox. As bobcat #'s increase in Iowa turkey population has gone down as well.
-habitat loss, fenclines and brushy drainages continue to be dozed out and put into production.
-bird flu maybe or other disease?
-perhaps some ag practices with insecticides/herbicides or seed coating poisonings birds?

Its sad. Driving the bypass around DSM 5+ years ago it was common to see a half dozen big flocks of birds in the spring in the fields, each flock having from 15-30 birds or more even. I could count on it. I would see a dozen or more strutters in the morning. Now those same fields and driving that same route I usually see none or maybe just count the total number on one hand.
 

LoessHillsArcher

PMA Member
We've still got quite a few birds out west but not nearly like it used to be. It's funny how some days you drive around and see none. Then get a drizzly day and birds will be all over. We used to trap hard on our farm but that slowed down about 5 years ago. Picking it back up again now though with hopes to see #s go back up.

I think people would be shocked the # of coons/possums/skunks that are out there. It is only one piece of the solution but hey, it's something we can easily help out with. Won't cure it completely but definitely will help.

The great horn owl comment really surprised me, mother nature is kinda cool to learn about. Turkey predators come in all forms!
 
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