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Eastern Wild Turkey Habitat Management

Food 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

another.


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.

Water Management

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.

Cover Management

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) will

support twice as many turkeys as any other woodland type.




Link to More Informaiton on Eastern Wild Turkey Habitat Management


  What to do when

Use the planning calendar below for tips on enhancing your land throughout the year. Click any of the selections below for more details.






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