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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?
 

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Until they decide to do something about the predator problems I don’t think it will improve. I keep hearing them preach about lack of habitat and i’m sure in some places that’s true to an extent but most places i know of there is plenty of good habitat not much has changed in years but very few birds, tons of predators though. All these biologists keep saying they can’t find the common link between all the states numbers declining how bout you look at the fur market when it went to practically nothing and people stopped trapping and predator number started to increase i bet you turkey numbers went down. Years ago we had good turkey numbers enough that the population could withstand the impact of predators but after whatever got into the birds ( and you’ll never convince me something didn’t cause you don’t go from having large flocks like we did here to almost no birds in the coarse of a year and something not get into them) i think the numbers got down and can’t bounce back due to the impact of predators. I’m trying to do my part by trapping and have taken out quit a few predators and i know there are other folks doing the same but it’s gonna take a large scale effort from lots of folks to ever make enough of an impact to make a difference. i don’t see that happening unless the states start bounties and i don’t think they will ever do that. And it’s not just turkey the predators are impacting it’s all small game
 

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Could it rebound yes but will it probably not. Arkansas doesn't manage habitat or put any real hands on effort with anything. Change a couple rules in the reg books and rock on. Well thats not gonna cut it. Could shut the season down couple years and yes that would help for a short period of time but without any real habitat changes burn offs, predator control, and so on then no. But hey agfc got those new trucks, boats, atvs, and other cool gadgets they are getting to enjoy 😉. Lol and wanting to make license cost double. Guess they figure need some jet skis and party bardges to assist in their jobs as well.
 

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Until they decide to do something about the predator problems I don’t think it will improve. I keep hearing them preach about lack of habitat and i’m sure in some places that’s true to an extent but most places i know of there is plenty of good habitat not much has changed in years but very few birds, tons of predators though. All these biologists keep saying they can’t find the common link between all the states numbers declining how bout you look at the fur market when it went to practically nothing and people stopped trapping and predator number started to increase i bet you turkey numbers went down. Years ago we had good turkey numbers enough that the population could withstand the impact of predators but after whatever got into the birds ( and you’ll never convince me something didn’t cause you don’t go from having large flocks like we did here to almost no birds in the coarse of a year and something not get into them) i think the numbers got down and can’t bounce back due to the impact of predators. I’m trying to do my part by trapping and have taken out quit a few predators and i know there are other folks doing the same but it’s gonna take a large scale effort from lots of folks to ever make enough of an impact to make a difference. i don’t see that happening unless the states start bounties and i don’t think they will ever do that. And it’s not just turkey the predators are impacting it’s all small game
This is spot on!
 

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I think there will be localized populations to hunt pending landowners doing their part to either not kill too many and/or habitat/trapping efforts.
I think public ground will be cyclical pending a good hatch here or there. But overall poor in comparison.
There’s some turkeys on the areas that I can hunt this year. but the last couple have been very poor overall.
I don’t ever see a rebound to late 90’s-early 2000’s levels.
too many hunters, fur prices are in the tank, very few people are truly conservation minded, list goes on and on.
 

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I’m looking at it differently. I don’t think we’ll ever have the numbers we had because of the lack of a healthy fur industry. What I’m hoping for is maybe a significant decrease in turkey hunting participation.

I remember the days when finding turkeys was a challenge but could be done, and you usually had them to yourself once you found them. I was real successful back then. I don’t mind tough times cause it makes me get creative. Some people want it easy like they see in the videos, and hopefully these folks will move on to other endeavors. Golf anyone?
 

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I do not believe we will see turkey populations recover. Almost makes me cry to admit that. I do not believe the AGFC sees their relationship with the hunting public as a partnership. I think it would take teamwork and honesty between those two entities to affect serious change in several areas. (Turkeys, waterfowl, rabbits, bullfrogs, sadly the list goes on...) I feel as if the commission doesn't trust outdoorsmen enough to be honest with us. It is nearly impossible to trust someone who does not trust you. So we get this stagnation that neither party really desires but, lacking enough leadership in either group to restore momentum, where we are seems to be the natural destination. Proud you made me think about it Swamp. Also, not happy to think about it. Conflicted as to what I could do to change this.
 

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the AG&F can make amazing changes/differences if they want to

they took ARK from not having turkeys to very good turkey hunting and now its plummeted ....... it can go back as well IF and ONLY IF the problems that hold the turkeys back ae addressed

#1 predators IMO
 

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I love hunting easterns but more than that I love hunting turkeys period. I'm all for the stocking of Rios, that's the only way I see our turkey population getting back to what it once was.
 

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the AG&F can make amazing changes/differences if they want to

they took ARK from not having turkeys to very good turkey hunting and now its plummeted ....... it can go back as well IF and ONLY IF the problems that hold the turkeys back ae addressed

#1 predators IMO
racoon hunting has gone by the way of the dodo. there is no way to control them unless there is a bounty of some sort on them. 60 yrs ago, a hunter could subsidize his sport selling the fur and meat from racoons his dogs treed.
 

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racoon hunting has gone by the way of the dodo. there is no way to control them unless there is a bounty of some sort on them. 60 yrs ago, a hunter could subsidize his sport selling the fur and meat from racoons his dogs treed.
i have also seen an increase of dead ones one the road.
 

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Nope. Could happen but won't. At this point it'll take stocking in addition to habitat improvement and predator control.
I coonhunt alot. And I might shoot half a dozen out of hundreds treed. But before anybody starts bashing, consider this:
If I thought for a second that there were any turkeys to protect, I would make it tough on the *****. As it is right now, I would only be cutting myself out of one of the few quality hunting opportunities I have left. Turkey numbers are so bad right now that lots of people simply don't see the point in trying to do anything about it. Almost like managing for dinosaurs.
 

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racoon hunting has gone by the way of the dodo. there is no way to control them unless there is a bounty of some sort on them. 60 yrs ago, a hunter could subsidize his sport selling the fur and meat from racoons his dogs treed.
How many tons of corn and other food get put out by hunters each year that ends up feeding a burgeoning turkey nest or predator population?

Feed that improves the population of racoons, mice, squirrels, crows, pigs... in turn provides more prey for coyotes, foxes, bobcats and others that prey on turkeys as well.

Hard decisions need to be made regarding closing for a season, baiting regulations etc. that will never get addressed. So, to the original question: I am not optimistic that turkey hunting in Arkansas rebounds to it's heyday. A little bounce back in pockets based on hatch and habitat improvement, Yes.
 
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