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Kansas Cancels Fall Turkey Hunting
Turkey
Contributors to this thread:
Zbone 16-Sep-23
Robear 16-Sep-23
goyt 16-Sep-23
redneck hunter 16-Sep-23
Robear 16-Sep-23
sitO 16-Sep-23
Robear 16-Sep-23
molsonarcher 16-Sep-23
Grey Ghost 16-Sep-23
Sivart 16-Sep-23
Dale06 16-Sep-23
Catscratch 16-Sep-23
JohnMC 16-Sep-23
Jims 16-Sep-23
Dale06 16-Sep-23
Grey Ghost 16-Sep-23
Medicinemann 16-Sep-23
Paul@thefort 16-Sep-23
Lewis 16-Sep-23
Groundhunter 16-Sep-23
Groundhunter 16-Sep-23
redneck hunter 16-Sep-23
Lewis 16-Sep-23
Mark B 16-Sep-23
Dale06 16-Sep-23
Mark B 16-Sep-23
Ben 16-Sep-23
Ironbow 16-Sep-23
Ksgobbler 16-Sep-23
Jims 17-Sep-23
fuzzy 17-Sep-23
Thornton 17-Sep-23
Thornton 17-Sep-23
stealthycat 17-Sep-23
Grey Ghost 17-Sep-23
Groundhunter 17-Sep-23
Robear 17-Sep-23
Smtn10PT 17-Sep-23
nchunter 17-Sep-23
thedude 17-Sep-23
Shuteye 17-Sep-23
TonyBear 17-Sep-23
Mad Trapper 18-Sep-23
Missouribreaks 18-Sep-23
Missouribreaks 18-Sep-23
Catscratch 18-Sep-23
Buckdeer 18-Sep-23
fuzzy 18-Sep-23
APauls 18-Sep-23
Catscratch 18-Sep-23
Ksgobbler 18-Sep-23
sitO 18-Sep-23
Jims 21-Sep-23
sitO 21-Sep-23
Jims 22-Sep-23
Thornton 24-Sep-23
redneck hunter 24-Sep-23
Thornton 24-Sep-23
MichaelArnette 25-Sep-23
Jims 30-Sep-23
From: Zbone
16-Sep-23

Zbone's Link
Wish Ohio would do the same thing with our declining population... Declining wild turkey populations must be a national thing...

Kansas Cancels Fall Turkey Hunting

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/kansas-cancels-its-fall-turkey-hunting-season-amid-declining-populations-in-pockets-of-the-us/ar-AA1gMOtf

From: Robear
16-Sep-23
Ohio isn’t pro active enough to do anything like that Z. We like to wait until it’s to late.

From: goyt
16-Sep-23
I would support a male only turkey season in Ohio. In our area the number of turkeys in up over the last year or so. However, it would still be good not to take any hens.

16-Sep-23
Guys, get you some dog proof traps and get busy. I am seeing real results. Killed 2 mature gobblers this year where I barely heard a gobble years before.

Have a group of 6 Jakes now and getting pics of other mature gobblers still around. Been trapping for 3 years now taking over 100 nest predators off of 100 acres.

Word is getting around. I have had 3 calls from guys wanting me to trap their land now.

From: Robear
16-Sep-23
What are you using for bait in the dogproofs? I admit to being negligent on nest raider control.

From: sitO
16-Sep-23
Eliminate baiting in OH, like we are trying to do in KS, the coons and other nest predators population will fall on it's own.

From: Robear
16-Sep-23
Hope you guys get that done. Maybe if it happens, other states will follow suit. I really believe that most states Game and Fish Dept’s wish it was never legalized, but it is so entrenched in the hunting culture, they just don’t want to deal with the incredible backlash that would occur.

From: molsonarcher
16-Sep-23
Redneck, I agree with you totally on the trapping. Problem with that is most guys are so concentrated on not bumping “their” deer, most places wont allow trapping. Ive lost several trapping permissions to deer hunters bitching about it.”, and deer are more important than turkeys. SMH. Good on you for getting after them.

From: Grey Ghost
16-Sep-23
I don't believe the dropping turkey population in my area is due to predation. We don't have many of the typical nest robbers found in the midwest, and there hasn't been a noticeable increase in any of the predators that we do have. I think it's either a natural cycle, like I see with other species, or there is some sort of disease going around. The population decline is too widespread to be just from predation, IMO.

Matt

From: Sivart
16-Sep-23
I agree, Matt. We had as many or more nest predators back in 2005, when our turk population was at our all time high. There's something else going on. I believe disease and/or herbicide. I'm told a lot of the seed used now is coated w/ herbicide. Turks eat seeds.

From: Dale06
16-Sep-23
Zbone, yes, it seems to be a national thing, or certainly impacting a large parts of the USA. I often bowhunt turkeys in multiple states and have seen a huge drop in Nebraska and South Dakota, over the past five years or so. I arrowed 30+ turkeys in South Dakota, 1-3 every year for many years. I didn’t go last year for lack of a huntable population.

From: Catscratch
16-Sep-23
Robear, mini-marshmallows, cat food, peanut butter, tuna, etc. A trashpanda will dig around for about anything. You can't trap too many of them! Same with skunks. Numbers need controlled and since the combination of deer leasing (don't bump MY deer) and fur prices going down there isn't much pressure on them.

From: JohnMC
16-Sep-23
Are there place that fall turkey hunting is actually entrenched in the hunting culture? Spring turkey hunting is a big deal to me and for a lot of other folks I know. I can't think of anyone that really gets into hunting them in the fall. I know a few folks that occasionally shoots one in fall. I think I have killed one in fall. Maybe some places it is a big deal and I just have never seen it.

From: Jims
16-Sep-23
There likely is a combo of things but I think it's a bit goofy not throwing nest robbers in the mix for being responsible for at least a fair chunk of the turkey decline in the Midwest states.

Where I've hunted in the past in Nebraska I've heard the coon population (nest robbers) is out of control. The coyote population also isn't doing too bad with less mange in recent years. Add to coon and coyotes..... bobcats and opossums. Lots of predators and nest predators roaming the Midwest and elsewhere. Here in Colo we have bears plus mtn lions to add to the list.

From: Dale06
16-Sep-23
Fur prices being low enough to make it not even close to financially viable, to trap coons, skunks, opossums, and coyotes might be a factor. There’s lots of traps hanging in barns, not being used.

From: Grey Ghost
16-Sep-23
Jims, in 23 years of owning my property, I've seen exactly 1 coon, 1 skunk, zero opossums, zero bobcats, and zero mountain lions. I've seen bears 3 times. We had far more coyotes 10 years ago, when the turkey population was the highest, then we do now. We do have a few owls and other predator birds, but their numbers haven't changed. Predation may be a problem in some areas, but not around here. Oddly, the rabbit population has exploded in recent years, but I don't think they are much of a threat to turkeys.

I have 10 year old videos of as many as 50-60 turkeys around my barn at horse feeding times in the spring. Last spring the most I saw around 12, which was a slight uptick from the year before.

Matt

From: Medicinemann
16-Sep-23
Redneck hunter X 2. I dusted off my traps about 6 years ago, and the turkey population has definitely rebounded nicely. Granted, there is nothing that I can do about the avian predators, but for whatever reason, the turkey numbers are improving again. I started up because I noticed that the raccoons will cut a hen track in the Spring, and backtrack her to her nest. Luckily, some of my coon sets also catch the occasional possum or skunk....also notorious eggeaters.The majority of my sets are placed at corners of fields, where I can check the traps with a scope or binoculars, and when refreshing a set, I use my Gator......minimizing the introduction of human scent. The deer herd doesn't seem to have been too badly affected. I try to check the traps mid day, which hopefully also helps. I should also mention that I started planting corn about the same year that I started trapping again. My guess is that no single factor explains the turkey population situation....luckily, it doesn't have to. If predators explains 40% of the decrease, and food sources explains 20% of the same situation, a combined increase of 60% is reason enough to continue doing both. Bear in mind, I grabbed those numbers out of thin air for my example, but even if it is less, as long as it seems to make a positive impact, I will continue to do both.

From: Paul@thefort
16-Sep-23
Nebraska is spending 1.5 million $$ to try to determine why the decrease in turkey populations, using the same types of studies. One researcher stated, " We can not expect the turkey populations, across the Midwest, east and south east, to maintain their high levels as in the early 2000s to 2008.. What we are facing today may be the new NORMAL."

?FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 12, 2022) — Two ongoing research projects should provide insight into why Kentucky's turkey harvest has slipped since its record peak in 2010.

Hunters reported the harvest of 26,836 turkeys during the state's spring 2022 seasons. While that level is comparable to the heyday of the turkey population boom in the early 2000s, it falls well short of Kentucky's record harvest of more than 36,000 turkeys during the spring season 12 years ago, and the past 10-year average of 30,822 harvested.

Kentucky is not alone in its turkey harvest decline.

“This is a range-wide phenomenon – it's happening in other states, too," said Zak Danks, turkey program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Researchers are talking and collaborating with each other, trying to figure out what's going on across the wild turkey's range."

Kentucky is currently working with Tennessee Tech University and the University of Georgia on a turkey reproduction study. Researchers are investigating nesting success and the survival rates of young birds. Biologists will study how predators, weather, habitat and gobbling affect the number of turkeys that reach adulthood.

Another ongoing study is examining the impact of hunting on the flock. For this research, being conducted in partnership with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, biologists started banding male turkeys earlier this year. Researchers will continue banding birds through 2025 to gain a better understanding of how many birds are taken by hunters versus how many birds die from other causes, such as predators.

Ben Robinson, acting director of the department's Wildlife Division, cautioned that researchers need to finish the entire project before they begin interpreting the results.

“Drawing conclusions now would be like calling the Kentucky Derby halfway through the race," he said.

Several factors impacted turkey season this spring, including bouts of cold and rainy weather. Holidays may have affected hunter numbers as well: Easter fell during the opening weekend while the spring season concluded on Mother's Day. Other factors during the spring season, such as the Kentucky Derby, youth sports or other group activities, once again competed for peoples' time.

License sales numbers this year indicate the surge in hunting and fishing participation during the pandemic has waned as COVID restrictions have eased.

From: Lewis
16-Sep-23
I read a study conducted in Mo on about 50,000 acres if I remember correctly about the turkey population and it actually was done on a couple of pieces of property that I have have hunted.It was very interesting and nest predation is a big part of it.It was crazy how far some of those birds that had a tracking device attached would travel.We trap hard here in Tennessee and yes it helps a lot Good luck Lewis

From: Groundhunter
16-Sep-23
Dog Proof bait for coons, I use a marshmallow and grape jelly.

From: Groundhunter
16-Sep-23
I would take all that bullshit money, for more useless studies, to employ more useless jobs, and offer bounties

3.00 Coon, skunk, 2.00 and on and on. You could make good money quick, in sure volume. Trappers and new trappers would get at it. No need to skin, just freeze, verify by state and state can dispose of them. I could make serious money quick.

16-Sep-23
Missouri MDC may finally be waking up also. We now have an "early" trapping season on nest predators only which runs August 1st thru October 15. It re-opens on November 15 and runs thru April 14 on private land.

Trapping before nesting eliminates the excuse of " bumping" deer. Trapping may not be the saviour for the turkey decline in all areas, but it has a real impact and is something a guy can do beside bitch and wring his hands.

Don't get caught up in the double talk about global warming, forest succession, avian flu etc. The talking heads only talk. Most of us know more about real wildlife issues than the text book experts do.

As a side note I use small sized, cheap cat or dog food with a liberal squirt of liquid smoke. Drives them crazy and is mess free. Only fill bait to top of trip lever. I sometimes put a dab in front of trap also to help them commit.

From: Lewis
16-Sep-23
Fruit loops is also a great bait just saying Lewis

From: Mark B
16-Sep-23
We have a new 160 acre property in that we got this spring. Deciding to try to help the turkey population we ran dog proof traps for July and most of August and then pulled the traps to stop traveling the property before deer season. Our tally was, 121 Racoon, 3 opossum, and 3 mouse. If this is one farm, can you imagine how many more racoon are out there.

From: Dale06
16-Sep-23
121 raccoons on 160 acres, that’s insane! Glad you took them out.

From: Mark B
16-Sep-23
121 Raccoons off 160 acres and we still have more showing up on trail cameras. We surely but a big bite in the population, but there are more out there. It helped us decide to trap a bunch when the first turkey nest of eggs we found this year had all the eggs broken a day later.

From: Ben
16-Sep-23
Between me and a neighbor we have taken 21 coons this year and another neighbor a mile away has taken at least that many. There is still a bunch out there. We have more turkeys than we have ever had for the last 5 years.

From: Ironbow
16-Sep-23
I hunted a farm one time where the owner personally counted over 700 birds in one flock moving from one field to another. I watched 383 turkeys walk by my blind 2 years later. It is rare to see ANY birds on that farm now. I did get 24 coons in one trail camera photo! And it was not by a feeder.

From: Ksgobbler
16-Sep-23
2013 I had a fall gobbler flock of 18. 2021 it was 3. 2022 it was 1. I havent had a turkey on camera in months. Hens/family groups have had the same trajectory.

Fwiw I catch more racoons with grape jelly than anything I have tried. Also calling racoons is great fun.

From: Jims
17-Sep-23
Grey Ghost, what part of the country do you live and do you have game cams set up? You would be amazed at the predators that come out at night that aren't seen during the day! I have game cams set up year-round monitoring wildlife here in Colo and hardly lay eyes on skunks, bobcats, mtn lions, bears, and coons during the day. In fact, most of the predator photos on my game cams (not including coyotes) are only at night.

Glad to hear that trapping coons has worked in quite a few situations mentioned above.

I've also heard that hunting turkeys early in the spring can lead to fewer hens getting bred. It messes with the pecking order harvesting older age class toms. There are also fewer toms to breed every hen. Supposedly jakes aren't the males doing the actually breeding. If there aren't many toms that make it through the season it's evident that hens likely aren't getting bred. Some states have actually limited or eliminated early spring seasons to possibly help hens get bred.

I would also agree with the comment above that there are a heck of a lot more turkey hunters today than there were 10+ years ago when turkey numbers were at an all-time high across the Midwest. Fewer mature toms available to breed hens may have an impact?

Harvesting hens in the fall obviously doesn't help! If turkey numbers are decreasing, it is a no brainer to eliminate either sex tags in the fall!

Again, glad to see that KS is stepping up to positively improve the downward trend of turkeys in Kansas.

From: fuzzy
17-Sep-23
Robear try butterscotch hard candies, sardines, and

From: Thornton
17-Sep-23
I have never killed a coon in 13 years on my 80 that sits in the middle of a 1 mile section, surrounded by neighbors who don't hunt or trap coons. I always have turkeys in the spring, and usually at least half a dozen hens stay in the area for nesting season. I have only found one destroyed nest. All the reports I've read indicate biologists think disease is to blame, as this is a common cycle for turkey populations to wax and wane. This is a multi state issue, and affects large areas, at roughly the same times. I was very familiar with the properties where the trapping of turkeys in KS in the mid 90's took place in Greenwood County. Hardly any locals bothered with trapping coons back then, nor do they do now. We had winter flocks numbering in the hundreds, that were still strong ten years after the trapping and deportation of the birds took place. Suddenly, the decline started in multiple states, and nobody knew why. Common sense would tell you, it wasn't the coons that we always had, are to blame. Also, new studies show that corn in hot feeders produces Aflatoxin that kills poults. Quality Deer Management Assoc. says neonictide seed coatings are suspect, as are herbicides and pesticides. Some herbicides have been proven to cause sterility in certain species. Also, the fall season in this state was not heavily hunted, nor was it popular mainly due to the fact that if you didn't have permission on the land where the winter flock was, you could go an entire winter without seeing a single turkey. Winter flocks seem to suck all the birds to one area in a 5 or ten mile stretch of river or creek bottom.

From: Thornton
17-Sep-23
Interesting article from Realtree on bait killing poults:

https://realtree.com/turkey-hunting/articles/is-your-deer-bait-killing-turkeys

"As turkey numbers decline, some are wondering if all those corn piles could be part of the problem Turkey numbers are down right now, and that's no secret. The most troubling declines are in the Southeast, where some measures of poult recruitment show that hens aren't making enough little turkeys in the spring to keep flock numbers stable. In Georgia, for example, hens were producing an average of 4.5-5 poults each spring in the late '90s. Today, the state's poult-per-hen average is hovering around 1.5, below the 2-poults-per-hen number needed to break even."

From: stealthycat
17-Sep-23
Arkansas cut its fall archery turkey years ago

even though fall turkey harvest was only like 1% of the total kill, the G&F cut it first

and it made no difference in the declining turkey population

From: Grey Ghost
17-Sep-23
"Grey Ghost, what part of the country do you live and do you have game cams set up? "

Jims, our property is roughly in central Colorado about 1-1/2 hours SE of Denver. I don't run trail cameras, but I'm confident that if we had enough predators to significantly affect the turkey population I'd know about it. If anything, I'd see evidence of the kills, or robbed nests, which I don't.

I've hunted a fair amount in eastern Kansas, and I routinely see coons, opossums, and bobcats, while in stand there. I never see those species on my property. I do occasionally see a coyote, but those sightings aren't nearly as common as 10 years ago. Turkey predators just aren't that common around here.

I think Thornton's posts are probably more on track for the reasons turkey populations have plummeted thru-out so many regions.

Matt

From: Groundhunter
17-Sep-23
Thornton that is an excellent post.

From: Robear
17-Sep-23
Thanks to everyone for the bait recommendations. With the dog proof traps, does it make sense to use two or more traps per set to increase numbers caught?

From: Smtn10PT
17-Sep-23
If you are trapping near a feeder or a concentrated food source where you are getting multiple on camera use multiple traps. If not, set one in the dead center of every trail entering a field or the area you want to trap.

From: nchunter
17-Sep-23
In Virginia where I hunt the hen numbers just keep going down. I am going after every coon, skunk and coyote that I see this year. I saw zero young turkeys from the hatches this year.

From: thedude
17-Sep-23
Trap/shoot predators ,manipulate the landscape, stop concentrating animals on feeders, and stop shooting hens in the fall. The places I frequent with lots of coon hunting pressure, fewer large ag fields, and more mixed habitat have good turkey numbers on public. Other areas I hunted a few years you would cover 10 miles for one track.

Too bad greenies are anti fur and anti oil but will only buy synthetics made from oil when fur prices could help save a lot of ground nesting birds.

From: Shuteye
17-Sep-23
I use apples, cut up for bait in live traps. I call a coon hunter when I make a catch and he brings me a couple dozen eggs, some more apples and He trains young coon dogs. He also brings a live trap to put the catch in. He has a neat gadget that holds the door open on my trap and shuts the door on his trap when the coon moves into his trap. He also repairs any damaged live traps I have. I catch coons, possums and foxes in my live traps using only apples for bait. I caught five coons raiding my neighbor's trash can. That is when I learned about apple because the neighbor has a pet cat and I didn't want to catch it. Years ago I could jump five coveys of quail in an afternoon and I haven't seen one in years. I hope that doesn't happen to turkeys. i think farming had something to do with that.

From: TonyBear
17-Sep-23
Up North here still have a lot of birds even after such a very hard winter. Most hens have 8-12 polts size of pheasants running around. Looking forward to the fall hunt. Hopefully, the researchers will find out what's going on in other states.

From: Mad Trapper
18-Sep-23
In my area of PA, the turkey population continues to decline. We trap all predators and I haven’t seen any improvement in the turkey population. Not many people trapping although there seems to be a lot of people hunting coyotes these days. In PA , if you buy the extra spring tag, you can take three turkeys a year. We have a lot of hunters. PA has eliminated the use of rifles in the fall season. They should eliminate the second spring gobbler tag as well. My two cents.

18-Sep-23
In most areas turkey seasons have are too liberal, especially with scoped bolt machines making archery hunting and killing far more easy. Shorten the seasons and bag limits where necessary.

18-Sep-23
And, trapping is by far the best way to control predation. Support your trappers, and become one.

From: Catscratch
18-Sep-23
Robear, I think it's smart to use more than one trap at a set. I don't bait but still get pics of several at a time. Plus I often catch 2 when I put out 2 traps. I think they run in family groups in the fall. With that said I also think you'll end up catching most of them (one at a time) if you only use 1 trap. It'll just take a couple of weeks to do it.

From: Buckdeer
18-Sep-23
Around 10 years ago we found dying turkeys while shed hunting.I talked to guys in 2 other counties finding same thing.I even called the state and there wasn't much concern there.Now it has spread across the country.The are 2 things about the fall season being canceled. They are making a comeback in Kansas so I would say they are a couple years late.Also why not leave it and just make bearded turkey as the males very rarely have impact on population as they will breed multiple hens in spring.

From: fuzzy
18-Sep-23
Robear I use three traps per location. You'll often catch multiple coons in a night. If you happen to bycatch a possum or skunk or have a trap sprung your setup is still viable if you have multiple traps out. A little real vanilla extract can bring them to the set. I use a cotton bandana tied to a branch as a scent flag.

From: APauls
18-Sep-23
Nest predators may not be the cause of the decline, but from the results above, it sure looks like it is a good way to get your population back.

From: Catscratch
18-Sep-23
I'm in the same category as buckdeer. About 10 yrs ago I found several sick turkeys then have watched the population drop. It's dropping in huge portions of the country where hunting regulations are different, baiting practices are different, and prey pressures are different. Lots of variables to look at! Two things that can be classified as universals would be disease and farming practices. I say farming practices because the same seed coatings, herbicides, and pesticides are used all across the country.

From: Ksgobbler
18-Sep-23
Buckdeer, I wouldnt say they are rebounding. Maybe slowing the decent but not rebounding in this part of the state.

From: sitO
18-Sep-23
If they were "making a comeback" the Biologists wouldn't have recommended the elimination of the Fall season.

From: Jims
21-Sep-23
Thornton, I call BS on your posts above. First, you mention Aflatoxin and then you bring neonictides into your argument. The article you included mentions 0 about neonictides and only Aflatoxin which naturally occurs when corn decomposes naturally in the soil. I'm glad you bring attention to that article because it mostly talks about the impact nesting predators have on poults. Who knows of anyone in feedlots that feed cows corn and silage with anything that's going to negatively impact their cattle health and gains? It's a great article about aflatoxins which have nothing to do with pesticides and neotoxins!

Here you go again guys the true article..without the neonicotinoids BS! https://realtree.com/turkey-hunting/articles/is-your-deer-bait-killing-turkeys

Aflatoxin Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring toxin produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus that occurs on corn. It occurs naturally in the environment and tends to build on corn as it lays on the ground. Why does it matter to turkey hunters? Because turkeys are among the most susceptible animal species to it. Aflatoxin as low as 200 parts per billion (ppb) can harm turkey poults by causing liver dysfunction and immunosuppression.

A recent study by the MSU (Mississippi State University) Deer Lab monitored corn piles placed on the ground during the summer and fall, the very times when young turkeys are out foraging to put on weight for the upcoming winter. All the piles tested negative for aflatoxin the first three days on the ground. But by the fifth day, nearly half the piles tested positive at an average concentration of 400 ppb. By days eight, nine, and 10, all of the piles tested positive with rates as high as 2,000 ppb, 10 times the rate that can harm poults.

"There is no doubt that aflatoxin can be harmful to turkey poults. We also know that aflatoxin builds up faster in warm, moist conditions, like corn placed on the ground in the summer and fall," said Dr. Michael Chamberlain, noted turkey researcher and Terrell Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia.

To make matters worse, corn sold as wildlife feed is often leftover or rejected stock that tested too high in molds or fungi to be used as human or livestock feed, so aflatoxin itself might not be the only issue causing problems. The specific corn we are putting out for deer or other wildlife could actually be more harmful. This MSU Deer Lab Chart illustrates just how quickly aflatoxin levels can build in corn piles placed directly on the ground.

Aflatoxin Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring toxin produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus that occurs on corn. It occurs naturally in the environment and tends to build on corn as it lays on the ground. Why does it matter to turkey hunters? Because turkeys are among the most susceptible animal species to it. Aflatoxin as low as 200 parts per billion (ppb) can harm turkey poults by causing liver dysfunction and immunosuppression.

A recent study by the MSU (Mississippi State University) Deer Lab monitored corn piles placed on the ground during the summer and fall, the very times when young turkeys are out foraging to put on weight for the upcoming winter. All the piles tested negative for aflatoxin the first three days on the ground. But by the fifth day, nearly half the piles tested positive at an average concentration of 400 ppb. By days eight, nine, and 10, all of the piles tested positive with rates as high as 2,000 ppb, 10 times the rate that can harm poults.

"There is no doubt that aflatoxin can be harmful to turkey poults. We also know that aflatoxin builds up faster in warm, moist conditions, like corn placed on the ground in the summer and fall," said Dr. Michael Chamberlain, noted turkey researcher and Terrell Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia.

To make matters worse, corn sold as wildlife feed is often leftover or rejected stock that tested too high in molds or fungi to be used as human or livestock feed, so aflatoxin itself might not be the only issue causing problems. The specific corn we are putting out for deer or other wildlife could actually be more harmful. This MSU Deer Lab Chart illustrates just how quickly aflatoxin levels can build in corn piles placed directly on the ground.

Concentrated Predators Many biologists agree that nest predation is one of the main issues facing wild turkeys today. "We are seeing nest success as low as 20% here in Alabama, and nest predators account for a large percentage of the failed nests," said Dr William Gulsby of the University of Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. Dr. Gulsby is working with the conservation group TURKEYS FOR TOMORROW on a research project designed to shed some light on why wild turkey populations are declining.

(Don't Miss: ARE TURKEY SEASONS OPENING TOO SOON?)

Anyone who has ever put out corn for deer knows that it attracts raccoons, opossums, pigs, and other nest predators. "Nobody raccoon hunts anymore, and everyone feeds deer," said George Cummins, operator of Salt River Outfitters, a deer and turkey hunting outfitter in central Kentucky. "This has caused an explosion in the raccoon numbers. I find so many nests that have been raided I can't count them all. I think there's an unbalance in predators now, and it has slowly been increasing over the last 10 years. I run 60 plus cameras on over 20,000 acres in nine different counties and I regularly get photos of 20 or more, sometimes way more, raccoons on just about every camera."

It's not just the drop in hunting and trapping that is causing the boom in the predator populations; it might be that the corn piles themselves play a hand in it. "Think about it. Baiting concentrates predators in an area, but those predators, like raccoons, don't have to work to find food while bait is out. That means they go into breeding season in extremely good health, leading to increased litter size and decreased winter mortality rates, raising the population numbers even more," Dr. Gulsby said.

Couple these hyper-inflated predator numbers with decreased nesting areas due to large-scale habitat loss, and it's not hard to see just how difficult it is for a hen to successfully hatch a clutch of eggs.

How do We Fix It? In the quest to conserve turkeys, it might be time to consider limiting or eliminating baiting for deer and hogs. Ironically, another rapidly spreading disease, Chronic Wasting Disease in whitetail deer, may make baiting issues with turkeys a moot point. At least 25 states have either changed or are considering changing baiting laws in response to spreading CWD.

Still, many hunters consider baiting to be an integral part of their hunting plans, so some states get extreme pushback to their plans to eliminate corn and other wildlife feed. What can we do in the near future while biologists, hunters, and politicians hash out the issue?

If you are going to feed, start by only using clean, livestock-quality corn, then use a feeder that keeps it dry and up off the ground.

For one, if you plan to feed deer or hogs, stop putting corn directly on the ground. "If you are going to feed, start by only using clean, livestock-quality corn, then use a feeder that keeps it dry and up off the ground. Set it so that only the amount of corn that will be consumed in a day or two is released, so that excess corn doesn't just lay on the ground," said Dr. Chamberlain. Next, wait as late into the summer or early fall as possible before putting out corn, so as to give poults plenty of time to feed on insects and prepare for the upcoming winter. If you hunt a large enough parcel of land, situate feeders well away from likely nesting and poult rearing cover to keep predators away.

When it comes to predators around bait sites, eliminate as many as possible during your state's legal hunting and trapping seasons. "Several studies have shown that predator control is beneficial to other ground nesting species like bobwhite quail, so it stands to reason that it should be beneficial to wild turkeys as well," Dr. Gulsby said.

Will ending baiting bring turkey populations back to where they were 10 to 15 years ago? Probably not by itself. As Dr. Chamberlain says, the turkey population decline is likely the result of a number of factors and the reasons may vary from area to area. But think of it like this: There are nearly 2.5 million turkey hunters in the U.S. What if we could all just save a poult or two per season?

Concentrated Predators Many biologists agree that nest predation is one of the main issues facing wild turkeys today. "We are seeing nest success as low as 20% here in Alabama, and nest predators account for a large percentage of the failed nests," said Dr William Gulsby of the University of Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. Dr. Gulsby is working with the conservation group TURKEYS FOR TOMORROW on a research project designed to shed some light on why wild turkey populations are declining.

(Don't Miss: ARE TURKEY SEASONS OPENING TOO SOON?)

Anyone who has ever put out corn for deer knows that it attracts raccoons, opossums, pigs, and other nest predators. "Nobody raccoon hunts anymore, and everyone feeds deer," said George Cummins, operator of Salt River Outfitters, a deer and turkey hunting outfitter in central Kentucky. "This has caused an explosion in the raccoon numbers. I find so many nests that have been raided I can't count them all. I think there's an unbalance in predators now, and it has slowly been increasing over the last 10 years. I run 60 plus cameras on over 20,000 acres in nine different counties and I regularly get photos of 20 or more, sometimes way more, raccoons on just about every camera."

It's not just the drop in hunting and trapping that is causing the boom in the predator populations; it might be that the corn piles themselves play a hand in it. "Think about it. Baiting concentrates predators in an area, but those predators, like raccoons, don't have to work to find food while bait is out. That means they go into breeding season in extremely good health, leading to increased litter size and decreased winter mortality rates, raising the population numbers even more," Dr. Gulsby said.

Couple these hyper-inflated predator numbers with decreased nesting areas due to large-scale habitat loss, and it's not hard to see just how difficult it is for a hen to successfully hatch a clutch of eggs.

How do We Fix It? In the quest to conserve turkeys, it might be time to consider limiting or eliminating baiting for deer and hogs. Ironically, another rapidly spreading disease, Chronic Wasting Disease in whitetail deer, may make baiting issues with turkeys a moot point. At least 25 states have either changed or are considering changing baiting laws in response to spreading CWD.

Still, many hunters consider baiting to be an integral part of their hunting plans, so some states get extreme pushback to their plans to eliminate corn and other wildlife feed. What can we do in the near future while biologists, hunters, and politicians hash out the issue?

If you are going to feed, start by only using clean, livestock-quality corn, then use a feeder that keeps it dry and up off the ground.

For one, if you plan to feed deer or hogs, stop putting corn directly on the ground. "If you are going to feed, start by only using clean, livestock-quality corn, then use a feeder that keeps it dry and up off the ground. Set it so that only the amount of corn that will be consumed in a day or two is released, so that excess corn doesn't just lay on the ground," said Dr. Chamberlain. Next, wait as late into the summer or early fall as possible before putting out corn, so as to give poults plenty of time to feed on insects and prepare for the upcoming winter. If you hunt a large enough parcel of land, situate feeders well away from likely nesting and poult rearing cover to keep predators away.

When it comes to predators around bait sites, eliminate as many as possible during your state's legal hunting and trapping seasons. "Several studies have shown that predator control is beneficial to other ground nesting species like bobwhite quail, so it stands to reason that it should be beneficial to wild turkeys as well," Dr. Gulsby said.

Will ending baiting bring turkey populations back to where they were 10 to 15 years ago? Probably not by itself. As Dr. Chamberlain says, the turkey population decline is likely the result of a number of factors and the reasons may vary from area to area. But think of it like this: There are nearly 2.5 million turkey hunters in the U.S. What if we could all just save a poult or two per season?

From: sitO
21-Sep-23
I'm just a simple caveman, but what I think you're trying to say is "corn pile bad"?

From: Jims
22-Sep-23
Turkeys have been feeding off corn piles for years....from the time turkeys were introduced through the years of record numbers. Cows in feedlots get fed with fresh corn through the winter months on a daily basis. Does corn sit around on the ground and rot in feedlots? I'm sure a little bit does but is it a main factor in massive turkey declines?

It sounds like poults are the ones most susceptible to aflatoxin. How many poults hang out and eat corn in feedlots in the late spring once they are hatched.....and is it even that common that poults feed on corn laying on the ground rotting that time of year or are cows mostly out on the open range grazing on grass? My guess is that aflatoxin could possibly be a tiny factor in the turkey decline in localized areas across the midwest but nothing compared to ground nesting predators, poor nesting conditions, fall hen tags, and other factors.

From: Thornton
24-Sep-23
Jims- I don't have time to argue with someone hell bent on denying facts.

Stating that this argument is void because "turkeys have been eating corn for years" is idiocy. It is the fact the corn heats up in the feeders from what I've read. Everything catches up sooner or later. I've treated patients in ER since 2006 and I can assure you, 100% of smokers eventually get some form of COPD and the complications of it eventually kill them, sooner or later. The alcoholics are the same. Some die in their 40's, many die in their early 60's. The point is, just because feeders don't kill them immediately, doesn't mean it isn't killing them later.

see article from the National Deer Association:

"This website is all about deer, but it’s important to note that some turkey biologists are concerned that ingestion of aflatoxin-contaminated corn may be contributing to regional declines in turkey populations. Turkeys and other birds are at higher risk from aflatoxin exposure than mammals like deer. Turkeys fed levels of aflatoxins as little as 100 to 200 parts per billion (ppb) showed liver damage and decreased immune function within two weeks. Northern bobwhites are also negatively affected at similar concentrations. Importantly, bobwhites and white-winged doves have been shown to eat aflatoxin-contaminated feed as readily as uncontaminated feed"

See Article from Realtree:

https://realtree.com/turkey-hunting/articles/is-your-deer-bait-killing-turkeys

I mentioned neonictides and Roundup because these are possibilities as well as mentioned by QDMA if you listen to their podcasts.

Birds and fish deaths are the first to go in when their environment no longer in in homeostasis. Why do you think a canary was taken down with miners? When the canary died, it was time to get outta that hole. We should not continue to practice something that harms wildlife more than it benefits just because we are lazy and want to kill something fast with as little effort as possible.

24-Sep-23
Some can't see the forest for the trees. All the big talk is akin to old ladies wringing their hands. And doing nothing.

There are more hunters out hunting multiple states. Bag limits were high. Fur market dies and hunting and trapping for nest predators drops as well. Nest predators populations explode, aided by people feeding deer year round.

Sometimes the answer really is simple.

From: Thornton
24-Sep-23
More vehicles on the road than ever before in the history of mankind and urban sprawl takes over a million acres per year in the US alone. When we had plenty of turkeys 20 years ago, nobody hunted coons then either. The bridge up the road from my farm is site to 1-2 roadkill coons per week. I rarely see turkeys in fields on either side of that road.

25-Sep-23
Good move Kansas, and hopefully the NR going to a draw will help also. Our turkeys hurting at a time when an explosion of NR hunters has happened.

From: Jims
30-Sep-23
Again, glad to hear Kansas is going a step in the right direction!   Predator numbers fluctuate with food availability and other factors. Booming turkey numbers = predator/nest predator increases. 1 to 2 roadkill coons/week sounds like a heck of a lot of coons? Having that many coons sound like a lot of coons searching hard to find the few turkey eggs and other food that exist.

Believe it or not turkeys ate corn in bins from the year turkeys were introduced through the turkey boom years. If aflatoxin is as lethal as you say, turkey numbers would have never increased from time 0 when they were introduced. An old turkey is 4 or 5 years old so the turnover rate of turkeys is pretty darn quick. It's impossible for turkeys to pass along aflatoxin poisoning to their progeny! I have a tough time figuring out how turkey numbers boomed if corn is so lethal?

I agree that there could potentially be aflatoxin problems in localized locations if the right conditions exist at the right time of year, but it is pretty absurd to say that the sudden crash in turkey numbers across most of the Midwest is due to aflatoxin. It makes sense that it's likely a combination of a lot of factors and aflatoxin "may" be a minor localized factor.

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