WHERE HAVE ALL THE TURKEYS GONE?
May 1, 2018 | View PDF
As we approach the end of the 2018 spring turkey season, I look back and cannot recall a season as rough and tough as 2018. This past season I only killed one gobbler and had a miss on video. I did not call in any birds for other hunters for the first time in a long time. What happened to the turkeys in 2018?
I did not hear or see the number of birds that I have seen in Alabama in the past, but I'm not by myself. According to the wonderful world of social media, all my fellow turkey hunters are experiencing the same difficulties that I have gone through; not hearing gobbles, not seeing birds, and just finding it very difficult to kill a bird this past season.
I think back to past seasons and remember the great success that I use to have in the Alabama Turkey woods. Driving down the Alabama highways and seeing flocks of birds strutting and displaying for the ladies in the meadows and the fields. 2018 arrives, and I'm not seeing the birds in the fields while driving down the highways. Where in the world have all the turkeys gone?
Last week on Facebook I posted a picture of a strutting gobbler and said, "There are only 7 days left in Bama turkey season and it has been a rough and tough year." Boy I could not believe the response I got from my fellow hunters, and the general consensus was the population is way down.
I'm no biologist but I have several ideas as to why the population is declining. Remember I am not a wildlife biologist but I do consider myself to be an avid outdoorsman and just like all my camo brothers and sisters, I have some opinions.
Number 1, Predators. There is no doubt in my mind that the coons are busting up the nests and sucking out the eggs. Coyotes and bobcats are also on the rise as I am seeing more of these critters each year and I believe they do a number on Turkeys. Hogs have the best nose in the woods and I'm sure they are getting into the nest and getting a belly full of eggs. We all know that a snake loves to get in a chicken house but I would bet a few nests fall to the belly walkers.
Number 2, Habitat. Alabama is certainly a predominately pine tree state, especially in the central and south parts of the state. Turkeys love to strut in a fresh clear-cut pine stand, and it's probably good for a couple years, but once that thick vegetation starts setting in the only thing it provides for the turkey is a nesting area on the edge. I do believe a pine plantation is good for the turkeys if it is properly managed, thinned, and burned every 3-5 years.
Number 3, Baiting, or Supplemental Feeding. I strongly believe that supplemental feeding or baiting has done more harm than good. The reason being that our land has a natural land capacity, and by artificially providing for the wildlife, we have increased our predators' populations. Coons have increased in number, pigs are everywhere, and the coyotes and Bobcats have free reign to roam. We've also got a few folks in the legislature who want to legalize hunting over bait. Come on man, that's not hunting! Remember, feeding increases the chance of disease in deer and turkey.
I'm sure we could come up with several more reasons that the population is declining, but I feel that if we don't reverse this trend it will only get worse.
I do know that our Conservation Department is on top of this situation and has programs in place to help with this problem. Many studies are underway to possibly validate what we turkey hunters are seeing in our woods. The Avid Turkey hunter survey is in its 4th year of a 5-year study, and hopefully we will have some positive solutions to a very negative problem.
If you get a chance, and you have an opinion call Rob and I up on Cast&Blast on Saturday mornings at (334)240-9230 or 1-800-239-9544, because we want to hear from you. Here's to hoping we can keep our hunting tradition just as rich tomorrow as it is today, so get out there, enjoy the Outdoors, and go get'em!