Farming for Turkeys Even If You Aren't a Farmer
Turkeys today are found in State and Federal forests, game preserves, commercial timber lands, and on private woodlands. Most turkey habitats in the Southeastern U.S. are private holdings. No matter where the turkeys are, we should try to improve the carrying capacity of the land with food management plantings or food plots. As farmers and hunters, we can work towards improving turkey populations together. Clearing and planting a chufa plot around a pond or creek might serve to feed turkeys for a year or two and start a wildlife opening in the woods that could be alternately planted in quail or deer food, such as brown top millet or clover. Planted pines can become a "wildlife desert" if we don't plant some chufas around the borders and some quail food in the roads and openings. Fence rows that are "ROUNDUP-CLEAN" are not able to produce wildlife! Let's leave them bushy and maybe even plant a few rows of chufas on the edges and in the corners next to the woods. If we expect turkeys to cross woven-wire fences (a.k.a. net, dog and hog fence) we must put up poles for them to jump on or they will not go over. Tie poles to top strands of the fence. Power line right-of-ways can be used to grow tons of chufas for turkeys. Logging roads or cleared strips of land can grow chufas if they receive 4 to 5 hours of direct sunlight daily.
The most important thing we can do to begin is to educate the farmer about turkeys. Give him a copy of this article; show him a copy of a Turkey Call magazine or your state's wildlife magazine. Why not even encourage him to join the National Wild Turkey Federation? Tell him that he is in a place where he can help turkeys and tell him you want to work with him. As a turkey hunter you have often gotten some good advice: "Don't Miss". Well, "don't miss" with you farmer friends, either. Past misses have strained the relationship between the farmer and hunter. The three main misses can be avoided as described below.
1.) MISS UNDERSTANDING - Don't let that farmer think that you are a clod who only wants to get something for nothing and kill all his turkeys and then laugh behind his back. That may have happened to him before. There are hunters like that and they have helped to bring about those "No Trespassing" signs we see all too often these days. (When I was a boy the only place you saw those signs was in the city on an old falling down building.) Begin building a friendship by offering to help him get started growing turkeys!
2.) MISS MANAGEMENT - Ask your farmer friend how he wants you to use the equipment you have. A fourwheel drive truck can quickly start a gully that washes away tons of topsoil if it is "mis-managed". Hear what he has to say about litter and noise management, too. Your habits may be sins to him, and we want to help to provide for turkeys.
3.)MISS BEHAVIOR - A farmer's land is his living and is as much a part of his life as his fireplace or dining table. We owe him the respect of doing as he would do when we are there. If we can do that, the turkeys and the hunters will both be better off.
Perhaps your hunting club can lease some acreage for game food plots. You might provide chufa seed and fertilizer and help tend the plantings. Perhaps you can help him with some land clearing for wildlife openings or a pond dam. Maybe when you hunt on his land you can pay him a fee for the privilege. Payment can be most often made in terms of part of the kill, photos of the kill, or maybe just seeing that old gobbler, but remember - nothing satisfies like cash.
When it comes time to do the actual planting of the game food plot you may also enlist the help of the Boy Scouts, 4-H, or F.F.A. All of them have game food plot projects (or might like to) and might love to get involved and bust down some generation gaps and city/country barriers.
When your chufas are half gone, and your spring gobbler season is in, please remember not to kill more than 1/3 of your fall flock population. That means you get to go out and count them in the fall. It is not a hard job since a flock of wild turkeys on a plot of chufas is about as good as it gets.
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