|April 02, 2012
Whether you oversee a large tract of land or own a smaller parcel,
there are many wildlife management techniques you can use to help attract
wild turkeys to your property.
Wild turkeys, like white-tailed deer, are referred to as “edge species,”
because of their need for more than one type of habitat. Most of the time,
with large tracts of land, this isn’t a problem because the vast landscape
is diverse enough. But in the case of small-acreage, one-habitat
properties, it’s up to you as the landowner to create varied, preferred
habitats if you expect turkeys to use the property.
For optimal turkey habitat, half of your property should be in mature
forests and the other half in early-succession “openings,” such as fields,
clearcuts or forests having between 40 and 60 square feet per basal area.
Basal area is a measurement used to determine the density of trees per
acre. Land that falls into the 40-60 basal range has 40 to 60
average-sized (13.5 inches in diameter at the base) pine trees per acre.
To create even better and more varied habitats for turkeys, you should
offer “differing age classes” of forests and early-successional areas –
and make prescribed burning a big part of your management plan.
Harvest pine trees on a different section of your land on a 10-year cycle
so that after a few decades, the property consists of several sections
with trees of varying sizes (ages).
Early-succession habitat can be achieved on “plantation-cut” areas with a
40-60 basal count, because the trees are spaced out enough for sunlight to
penetrate the forest floor, where frequent fire enables new growth of
succulent woody ornamentals, native wiregrass and goldenrod.
It also is important to keep any hardwood hammocks, drains, ravines,
bottoms, wetlands and other unique habitats intact and free from
timbering. Hardwoods are an essential element of wild turkey management.
Thick hardwood lowlands provide travel corridors that turkeys and deer use
If there’s not any water on the property and you have the financial means
to do so, dig a pond. Turkeys, as well as all other critters, need water
to drink, so if you have that, then you have yet one more piece of the
“Buffer” strips of native grasses and woody ornamentals should be left
unmowed. Hens require this thick understory cover for nesting. When
possible, prescribed burning should be applied that allows for a low,
woody component to be scattered throughout most of the timber stands.
Periodically lengthening your burning rotations will give you this desired
effect and help provide suitable nesting habitat.
In Florida, most hens begin to lay their eggs in late March or early
April, but the nesting season can extend through June. After all of the
eggs are laid, they take about 25 days to hatch. Therefore, if you can,
you may want to limit burning or mowing of preferred nesting habitat
Good brood habitat should hold food in the form of seeds, insects (an
invaluable protein source) and tender, new-growth vegetation for young
poults to feed upon throughout the summer. It should consist of 1- to
3-foot-tall grass and weeds open enough to enable the young poults to move
about, yet dense enough to provide cover from predators.
There is great interest nationally in the planting of food plots for
wildlife, including for turkeys. Within extensive closed-off canopy
forested areas, food plots and/or game feeders are essential to keeping
turkeys on your property. Where an open forest structure is maintained by
adequate timber thinning and the use of fire, such supplemental feeding is
not as necessary because there is enough natural “browse” vegetation on
which game can feed.
Food plots are a lot more cost-effective at feeding game than using
feeders on moderate-sized pieces of property. In cases of smaller tracts,
perhaps where food plots can’t be utilized because the landscape is all
lowland and you have a closed canopy, game feeders filled with corn or
soybeans are your only option for attracting turkeys.
Once the decision has been made to create food plots, you need to know
where to put them, how big and what shape to make them and what to plant.
The best ones are long and narrow rectangular shapes that follow the
contour of the land. When possible, create food plots where the length
(longest part) runs east to west. That way, the planted crops will receive
the most direct sunlight.
For tips on food plots, go to your local IFAS Extension office or, online,