One of our turkey biologists not too long ago said something to the effect that maybe us hunters just have to get used to having the turkey population we have. He was ridiculed by some folks for making that statement, but as I sit here this morning, drinking coffee and looking off my back deck, I wonder if truer words have never been spoken. The research shows us predators of every type are adversely affecting turkeys. We also know that habitat is deteriorating - although in my picture here as far as you can see - habitat has improved - if anything.
Out of all the land you can see here - and much further than that, other than the 300 acres I own, nobody is making any effort to improve turkey populations. No habitat improvement, no food plots, no predator control, no nothing. The land that you can see is owned by either the Federal Govt or cattle ranchers - neither of which has an active interest in improving turkey populations.
I would guess this is fairly typical across the state. A very few islands of land are actively managed for turkeys in a vast sea of lands that are not. Will any of it make a difference? Is our turkey population now bottomed out - like our quail - and what we have now is the base population that somehow struggles through and survives? In the last eight months, I have seen nine covies of quail and two turkeys - if that says anything. I know there are areas of the state that still have decent turkey populations, but I also know areas of the state where turkeys have declined to nothing in the past few years. I have talked to two different people in the last week that say they have not seen or heard a turkey on their hunting land this year - for the first time ever. The 4000 acre lease I am in has gone from decent turkey hunting five years ago to me not seeing a turkey on it this past year.
Years ago, a good hatch was anything over three poults per hen average across the state. Now, a good hatch is anything approaching two poults per hen. We havent seen that in the past eight or nine years. To really make a difference, turkeys need a couple of those good years back to back. That is a pretty tall order.
I know it was a long journey to get here. Do you think our present turkey population is what it is going to be - or do you think there is a realistic chance for some improvement?