Follow any of the turkey hunting pages on Facebook and you’ll very quickly see that hunters across the country are complaining about low bird numbers. I feel that some of this is true and some isn’t but in either case it needs to be taken seriously. Our wildlife is a blessing and we, as hunters, need to do everything within our power to make certain that the wildlife and all that goes with it, is taken care of.
The one constant in this concern of wild turkey numbers is that everyone has an opinion on what to do about it, or what the problem is. These ideas range from needing more studies done, to more predator control, and various other ideas across the spectrum. Although wild turkey studies are both educational and necessary, studying thus far has educated many but produced little results in the eyes of most people. This has caused me to do some of my own consideration about this topic and in doing so I feel that we have missed one particular aspect in learning what we should or shouldn’t be doing. I am of the opinion that it would behoove us to find the commonalities of the areas that wild turkey numbers are good and/or growing. To me, this will give us a good idea of what isn’t being done in problem areas. Although it is true that I hunt every state in our country as well as other countries around the world, I cannot suggest that I know much about any area but Texas. However, where Texas is concerned I know quite a lot and the Texas turkey population is staggeringly high. With that stated lets consider what Texas does that may contribute to these good if not great turkey numbers.
Large if not vast masses of private lands. These ranches, for the most part, do absolutely nothing for the turkeys specifically. This is exactly my point, birds are left alone which causes them less stress and more time to just be turkeys. Regarding predators, Texas has no season for any predator, there is no bag limit, and there is no illegal method. Furthermore, if you randomly picked any rural Texan they’ll likely have three rifles in their vehicle and will shoot any predator just because they saw it. Also, Texas made trespassing a felony years ago, in doing this the number of poaching cases were cut by 70% at the least.
With these few points as a guide or example I can’t help but form a personal opinion on how other areas can better the turkey numbers anywhere in this country. Lets as ourselves some questions based on what we know about Texas.
- Have the turkey numbers really gone down hill in other states or has their harassment evolved them into either being quiet or moving to a less trafficked area? As most everyone knows Texas is full of oilfields and everything that comes along with it. There have been countless times where I personally knew of a roost area and all of a sudden they were gone. More often than not oilfield traffic caused them to move. In one particular example a drilling rig moved within a half mile of the roost and they moved. Had this piece of property been what most people consider normal, I wouldn’t have been able to walk to any side of the property and hear where the birds moved to. My only conclusion would have been that bird numbers are dropping.
- Predators cannot be denied as a problem for any bird that hatches on the ground. Although this is an undeniable fact, predators are everywhere and always have been. Thus, we cannot think that the eradication of predatory animals is the answer. Sure, we need to get them when we see them but they are by far not the worst problem.
- Poaching is a real problem and Texas has proven how to fix it. The numbers of poaching cases now versus before it was a felony are truly remarkable. I personally don’t think this can be overlooked. Far too many times I have heard people actually say that a gobbling turkey dissolves property lines. That is wrong on every level.
- Although I can’t find a study that shows that jakes are as capable of breeding hens as two year old or older, I can’t help but think that they are not. People making excuses as to why they kill jakes can’t be helping the problem. We don’t shoot yearling deer and if we did, we’d see the fawn crops dwindle. I have no reason to believe that turkeys aren’t similar.
In conclusion I argue that there may be a different diagnosis to what the problem is and how to handle it. I do believe that turkey numbers are not as good as they should be in many areas. Certainly steps could be taken to help them return to where they should be. But, rather then just do research projects, spend countless dollars learning things and not doing anything, lets look at examples where mother nature is taking care of herself. Ie: TEXAS