Eastern Wild Turkey Habitat Management
The number-one food of wild turkeys throughout the year is
acorns, but they also eat the seeds, buds, leaves and tubers of many
other plants. Their principal natural plant foods fit into a few general
categories: mast (acorns and pine seeds); fruits (dogwood, grapes,
cherry, gum, persimmon, juniper); seeds (native grasses and sedges,
weeds); and greens (grasses and grass-like plants, selected annual
and perennial broad-leaved plants).
These birds also eat insects, and a management plan for year round
food must include clearings where they can forage for them.
Turkey poults feed almost entirely on insects the first two weeks of
life. At least ten percent of the forest area should be in scattered
openings for optimum turkey habitat. These openings provide green
forage and insects the turkeys need.
Seasonal fluctuations in one type of natural food will usually
create few problems for wild turkeys. Low production of one food
usually coincides with high production of another and because of
turkeys diverse food habits, when one food fails, they will find
Domestic crops such as soybeans, cowpeas, buckwheat, sorghum
grain, corn, oats and millet also are desirable foods for turkeys.
Important Food Plants For Turkeys:
Acorns, bedstraw, blackberries, buttercups, cherries, clovers, crop
residues (corn, milo, soybeans, etc.), dandelion, dogwoods, goldenrods,
grapes, hackberry, hawthorns, insects, Korean and kobe
lespedeza, native warm-season grasses, poison ivy, ragweeds, roses,
sedges, smartweeds, sorrels, strawberry, sumacs, sunflowers, tick
trefoils, and wild beans.
Grain food plots - Annual grain food plots for turkeys (and deer)
not only supplement natural foods, but also help in extremely bad
weather or during drastic natural food shortages.
Green browse plots - Permanent one-acre food plots can be
established in forest clearings. Apply recommended amounts of
limestone and fertilizer to a good, clean-tilled seed bed, then seed to
wheat and clovers.
Crop residues - Corn fields attract turkeys during severe weather
in late winter and early spring, when other food is in short supply. A
few rows of corn left standing next to timber will provide a food
supply in winter.
Idle fields - Abandoned fields surrounded by timber can provide
an important part of the annual range of wild turkeys. Try to keep old
fields open and in a grass-legume mixture. Mowing or moderate
grazing helps, because turkeys tend to avoid fields grown up in dense
vegetation. Controlled burning on a 1-3 year rotation will also
provide good cover for turkeys.
Wild turkeys require surface water and ordinarily are not found
where it is lacking. One pond, stream or other water source per
quarter-section of land is usually adequate for good turkey habitat.
Ponds need only be large enough to hold some standing water
through the summer.
Turkeys prefer open, mature woods, but they also use timber
stands that have grown beyond the small-pole (2"-9" diameter at
breast height, or DBH) stage, if the understory is not too dense.
Studies show that saw-timber stands (greater than 9" DBH) willsupport twice as many turkeys as any other woodland type.
Link to More Informaiton on Eastern Wild Turkey Habitat Management