Talking Turkeys: Just An Anecdote
Let’s talk about turkeys. Again…
I can’t tell you how many times over the past five years I’ve talked about this goofy looking critter. I love turkeys, and I love hunting them. Every good turkey hunter I know has spent more time than they’re probably comfortable with being questioned by me about turkeys.
Do you have turkeys? Do you have more or less than you used to? What’s changed? Tried anything to improve the population? Anything worked?
I’ve been pretty adamant at times about my personal opinions during these conservations, but in print I’ve bitten my tongue. For one, I have no idea what I’m talking about. I don’t have the answers, and I certainly don’t need to pretend like I do and tell folks what I believe the answers should be.
I don’t have a biology degree, and I have a ton of respect for those who do, particularly those who grew up loving hunting, fishing and the outdoors so much that they studied and worked incredibly hard so they could become a wildlife or fisheries biologist.
And I don’t take lightly the power of publishing. I say this with all humility—I’m aware that GON reaches lots of sportsmen, many who have been part of this community for more than 30 years. We take publishing very seriously, as should everyone.
Meanwhile, poor Brad Gill has an office next to me. He’s forgotten more about wild turkeys and how to kill them than I’ll ever know. I’m sure Brad is quite weary of hearing me talk about wild turkeys, about how the poult counts in Georgia and other southeastern states have plummeted from an average of three poults per hen every summer to an average of more like one and a half poults per hen. Mostly he’s tired of hearing me ask questions about the theories of actual experts, people who made it their life’s work to study, research and learn more about wild turkeys, a critter they also love to hunt.
My situation is purely anecdotal. And of course policy, seasons, regulations and biology absolutely should not rest on anecdotes.
But humor me, and let me just tell you about our land and our turkeys.
On our property the poult count last summer was zero. There was not a single poult among the more than 2-dozen hens we saw almost every day either through the binoculars or on trail camera. The summer before we had two poults, which would be a poult count of about 0.06, a far cry from 3.0, the average by which Georgia biologists once defined a good year for poult production—not an excellent year, just a good year.
In more than 20 years we’ve never killed a gobbler. Not one. Many years we never saw a wild turkey. Well, now we finally have turkeys. Nothing has changed in the habitat. Food plots are consistent. No burning—it’s mostly hardwoods. The only thing we did was hire a trapper about seven years ago, and he caught a pile of coyotes and raccoons. I know… just anecdotal, and odds are a random coincidence…
I got a video in December, 2019 of 11 longbeards in one group walking through a food plot. On opening day of the 2020 turkey season, I called up two of those longbeards and put the bead on one with a beard dragging the winter wheat. But I did not pull the trigger. I didn’t shoot because I want more poults, and there’s very good research saying that killing gobblers too early in the mating ritual can negatively affect nesting success and poult survival.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned, our poult count that summer was still zero. When I can take a video from a deer stand of a group of 11 longbeards, then that spring not one gobbler is killed, and then that summer we literally have a poult count of zero—not one poult—what’s the heck is going on?
When Bill Clinton ran for president, his political advisor, a Louisiana Cajun named James Carville, told campaign workers to focus on one theme, and Carville made that particular phrase famous: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
For our purely anecdotal situation on a tiny sliver of creek bottom, hardwood ridges, food plots and planted pines, where we haven’t killed a gobbler in 20 years, what’s the deal? I have my opinion… an uneducated guess…
It’s the predators, stupid.
Maybe calling myself stupid is harsh—maybe not. But Brad Gill has already trapped 17 coons and 16 possums, and the coyote traps go in this weekend. Let’s see how this anecdote looks this summer.
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