Contributors to this thread:
Sign of the times, bag reduction
Will other states respond in a similar way? I am sure Nebraska is looking hard at this change. Currently one can kill 5 toms in Nebraska, ie, 3 in the spring and two in the fall. This report from Oklahoma: In response to shrinking turkey numbers within its state borders, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission changed the state-wide bag limit to one bearded bird per hunter per season, regardless of how the bird is killed (bow, crossbow, muzzleloader, or shotgun). Last year’s bag limit was three birds.
Oklahoma will also be opening its spring gobbler season on April 15, a full 10 days later than last year.
We gotta do somethin. Numbers are down everywhere and we need to change that. Its been a few years since i would consider taking more than one tom from any one place that i hunt in maryland or pennsylvania.
One tom a year is plenty.
Not near the birds there used to be where I hunt in MO either. Doing good to hear 2 gobblers on any given morning. Used to be 10 plus. No idea as to why the numbers are so bad.
Ohio reduced the spring limit to one bird this year from two and cut a week off the fall either sex season.
I feel bad for you fellas that like to hunt them but I fricken hate em!
20 years ago, it was nice to see one, now, their thick and few shooting them. Big pest. I wouldn't pay a dime to "hunt them" .
KS did it two years ago Paul, not many birds left on any of my spots...really not sure why.
The Wisconsin state land I used to hunt had an epic population collapse in 2017/18 from which it has not recovered. Numbers this year where <10% of what they were 2006-2016. I pulled out this year and will try SW Michigan in its place, just 15 minutes from home with 2,500 leftover tags in my closest zone.
I know numbers were down here also…
Zim, I live in SW MI and had a first season tag. Granted the weather was cold a rainy most days, but I only heard 2 birds in the week I hunted. Most people I have talked to say the birds numbers seem to be down.
Agree with everybody. I was surprised PA did not get rid of the option to buy a 2nd Spring tag.
Really bad here in the East as well. I hunt NJ and MD and the population is ~10% of 3-4 years ago. Very low recruitment. Lots of hens in the summer with no poults, or just one or two.
Oklahoma wildlife department waited about 5 years (or more) too long. Glad they’ve made the change, but still a LONG time coming. The decline started about 10-12 years ago. Simple observance of the flock size from year to year is a pretty good tool. I actually stopped hunting them on our place around 2011 or 12’. Just no desire to kill what’s left of sinking population.
I certainly hope that all states reduce tag numbers, especially NE, since I live here.
More importantly, I hope someone figures out why the numbers are dropping so drastically across the midwest
The odd thing is all five of our state properties in NW Indiana, sandwiched in between SE WI & SW MI, are smothered in all age class turkeys. Population as good as it's ever been. I easily tagged out last 3 years in 1st or 2nd morning. So this makes me question if this is weather related.
I live in PA, its been a drastic downward spiral in the areas I hunt... Theres a current outbreak of Avian flu in our area, up to 15 farms as of today I believe, this has to be a reason for declining turkey numbers IMO... Take away the second tag!!!
Numbers have been down for sometime in Pennsylvania. Game Commission has finally conceded the point. They need to eliminate the second spring tag and go back to half day hunting. And do it for the next season.
I have 2 houses. I live in the UP and SE Wis, 50/50 depends on seasons... Anyway numbers around my house along Lake MI, have been stable. Good bird numbers and success,,,,,, Yet other areas like our deer camp in SW Wis, they are not good. Need to get tight on the bluffs by the river, to find birds.... Funny how that works..............
Birds in the UP, just hang around town, or by the roads.......... you dont need turkeys in grouse country....................
Wis has a spring and fall season. fall you can take what you want. Only one bird though. Spring they sell extra tags................ I do not see any adjustments coming to Wis,,,,,,,,,,,, I doubt they care much, the DNR..................
I think all the birds may have moved to my NY ground. Best year ever. Tons of gobblers. My son and I tagged out last weekend. But when I drive a few hours west to my Ohio property it’s the exact opposite. I won’t hunt turkeys there, the population is way down. Heard one gobble in two weeks.
As Pat alluded, I think it depends on where you are. My best friend and I went to West Texas a few weeks ago and killed a gobbler each the first afternoon, then one each the next morning. There wasn’t much gobbling going on but the turkeys were there.
In East Texas, where I live, TPWD has been trying to establish Easterns for years. Too many predators here for that. Nobody traps or coon hunts any more and everything from rats to coyotes predate on eggs and poults. It’s a waste of money IMO.
They are spotty here, I'm in Kansas also. Just yesterday I saw 4 gobblers on our farm when out looking for calves. I have seen as many as 4 long beards and 5 jakes in a group in the last couple weeks. I haven't taken the time to get out and hunt yet. We have more turkeys than we have ever had.
Take this from a prior forester. While my pedigree doesn’t include a degree in wildlife management solely. It does include a bunch of years managing property for wildlife.
Birds of prey and the common coon, possum, and skunks are taking a huge toll on recruitment. Plus, turkeys thrive in certain habitats. Meaning the timber age has a bunch to do with how well the proliferate.
Turkeys need think cover. And you get stands of timber. Keep in mind, you get timber means 50-60 year old stands intermixed with cover that protects young poults. Without it, they are like chickens in the barnyard. Everything eats them.
I trap, and do not disagree with predator mgt, but I think it is a habitat issue, and maybe something we have no idea on,,, Even during the haydays, and build up of populations, their were predators, and not heavy trapping,,,,,,,,,,,,,, I think its something that no one can put their finger on,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Pat, little else, but at least New York has that going for itself,,, ha ha
We are way down in Tennessee hope our bag limit is lowered I didn’t get a bird this year as I couldn’t hunt Florida or Missouri because of a family health issue.You have to do what you have to do.First no bird year in many moons.Good luck Lewis
Here in MA I think the numbers are down as well. I don’t think it’s predators but probably disease and cold rainy springs.
We're down a bit in my area of SW MO, but still nice huntable numbers.
I think we have a perfect storm of conditions: Cold and rainy springs. Habitat loss (lots of fencerows pushed out) especially nesting cover loss. A huge upswing in birds of prey (not only have we an exploding hawk population, but now we have year round resident bald eagles). Hardly any off-take of nesting predators like coons, possums and skunks.
Much of that is out of the control of any game department. I think the only thing that we can control is the nesting predators issue. And I've spoken to some conservation people and urged them to reclassify coons, possums and skunks as vermin instead of their current "furbearer" designation. Hardly anybody traps. It should just be open season on these nest predators. To have a season for them is kinda meaningless anymore with the small numbers of coon hunters and trappers due to the extremely low fur prices.
I'm hesitant to believe that adjusting Tom harvest is a top cause of population numbers either way in a reasonably healthy population.
I would agree that predators take a toll on turkeys. There was a lot of mange in coyotes a few years ago in Nebraska. Back then turkey numbers were at an all-time high. I would see 100 to 300 birds in tree roosting areas across different properties I hunted. Now a guy is lucky to have 1 to 5 in those same trees! Coyote numbers are totally out of control in those areas!
My guess is that not only predators but also weather conditions have screwed up nesting/poult survival. The Midwest states have been hammered by horrible nesting weather conditions.
To top it off, turkey hunting has gained popularity. Plain and simple, there are a lot more turkey hunters today than a few years ago! With more hunters and same liberal hunting quotas turkey numbers are bound to decline.
From what I've heard, hunting and shooting most of the mature toms in flocks during prime strutting seasons can potentially lead to fewer hens getting bred or fewer eggs. Wyo actually delayed hunting season dates for the first year in history to allow more hens to get bred by mature toms prior to hunting season. From what I understand jakes aren't able to breed. That was the first I've heard of this and it makes sense to me...especially in areas with few mature toms to breed a lot of hens.
I'm sure it's likely a combo of several of these factors. I certainly hope Nebraska reduces their bag limits. 3 tags is a big revenue but at the cost of losing a valuable resource. It may come back and bite them in the butt!
Another question is why do many states allow you to kill hens during the fall? I suggest they do away with that asap.
And isn’t it ironic that you can take 5 gobblers in Connecticut but only one carp?
I wish I was smart enough to add links to posts but I'm not. On the Wisconsin site there is a thread about declining turkey numbers and a poster (Bowcrazy I think) has a link to GrowDeer.TV where Grant Woods does an episode on toxic seed. It is about grain seed that is treated with an insecticide call neonicotin and how it may be detrimental to the wildlife that consumes these treated seeds, especially turkeys. I found it quite interesting. It is something to consider not using when planting food plots. Check this out when you get the chance. You may also be able to see it by going to GrowDeer.TV and look for episode 638.
Since we started taking out nuisance coons, I’ve noticed much better turkey. Umbers the last several years
Pat, you can take 5 in the spring…..and ANOTHER 5 in the fall in CT. Stupid is as stupid does…. Welcome to CT.
They just INCREASED the bag limits here recently. And all the hunters are saying reduce the bag limits. I have no idea where to start the ball rolling to reduce it??????
I have been listening to any info i can on the subject and the general consensus amongst each conversation includes the lack of prescribed fire. They are a species that thrives on it. It isnt THE reason, but its a big component in the habitat issue which is a major issue. Ive been in touch with some local NWTF leaders and had some discussion on trying to get my young daughters and myself involved with local efforts. To help the resource and also just to expose my daughters to a worthy cause that has them outside and learning about nature type things. It sounds to me like the NWTF is struggling to have enough ppl willing to have a leader type role to be strong and able to serve their mission statement. Thats sad.
I too dont believe that killing gobblers has a huge impact on the population, but i do believe that it has some. Turkeys are a pecking order creature, each knows where they stand. You mess with the ladder during the breeding season and there has to be some effect. Ive had years where ive killed a bird that appears to be the number 1 without impact that day but things were weird/quiet for a week or more after when i know there are other mature birds in the area. Does that affect breeding? Might…
A lot of research going on out there by some people that have an authentic passion for the bird and its presence. Cool stuff, too. Later than it could or should have started, but not too late to turn it around.
My opinion is this…if you enjoy hunting them or u dont, you should sure love to have em around and we all have to get together and do what we can to ensure that they stick around in an abundant manner. I dont believe it will take a lot from everybody, just a little from most will go a long way. I havent been part if that outside of a nwtf members-ship….that needs to change and thats what i plan to have happen
I have to agree that shooting hens during fall seasons is also a terrible idea! It's possible to shoot several hens during the fall in Nebraska and elsewhere.
I forgot that part. Yeah, with poult recruitment being so low, it does seem obvious that taking hens out of the population is a really bad idea. Then again…..im not a biologist….;^)
As stated above, severe weather in the spring strongly affects their nesting. Rain ain’t good if to much or too heavy. Wet and chilly spells doom.
A lot of good points throughout the thread... Even in areas where there may be turkeys, they don't gobble as much as they use too. Previous years, groups of Jakes would gobble for hours, now, I seldom hear one.. Here in PA, hunting pressure has to have some effect. With all the states that burn on a yearly basis, you'd think the turkeys would be flourishing in those areas.. Is that true?? California, colorado, etc. should be a turkey heaven,,,
PA’s answer was to eliminate the use of rifles in the fall season. I think that we should go to one tag per year Good for spring or fall. At least the second spring tag should be eliminated. I would also go back to half days for the entire season.
At home in MA behind my grandmothers and uncles we had to have 50-60 birds. As recently as 4 years ago. This year, there’s maybe 10-15. It’s crazy. Same where I deer hunt in PA, 4/5 years ago, you couldn’t sit without a flock coming by and seeing turkeys every day. Last two years, if you see some you got lucky.
There is no equal except maybe elk during the rut to be in the woods or swamps on a crisp spring morning and be serenaded by a gobbler or two shaking and waking up the whole area you have made your own spot to pursue these guys.I’ve been doing it for way more years than I can remember and I’ll never tire from it.Hope the powers that be can come to a solution to why the decline in numbers.Good luck Lewis
FROM A CURRENT REPORT :Biologists Tracking Wild Turkey Harvest and Populations to Understand Decline State agencies have worked diligently over the last 60 years to restore wild turkey populations in North America. The success of these programs was remarkable, with population estimates reaching historic highs of about 6.7 million birds in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. However, the overall turkey population estimate across all of turkey range has dropped dramatically in recent years, causing concern among biologists and turkey enthusiasts alike.
Wild turkey Researchers have identified four factors as potential causes for the decline:
1. Production, not predation, drives turkey populations 2. With high population densities, a significant number of hens won’t access quality nesting habitat and may not successfully hatch or raise a brood 3. Carrying capacity becomes an issue, productivity is declining because hens are nesting in suboptimal habitat 4. Vegetation quality contributes to the success or failure of nesting sites and brood rearing, little vegetation means little chance of poult survival. Missouri’s population has plummeted by more than a third of its former harvest levels based upon harvest data. In north Missouri, the turkey harvest has declined by almost 50% compared to 2004, and harvest rates are closely correlated to population numbers. However, the 2020 season was very atypical due to the pandemic, and there were more hunters and greater harvest than in previous seasons (both in Missouri and generally in other states). Preliminary 2021 turkey hunting season results suggest a decline in hunting license sales and resulting harvests compared to last year.
A five-year Missouri study that wrapped up in 2019 concluded that poult survival was far less than normal rates. In an effort to reverse that decline, the Missouri Department of Conservation and the University of Missouri have embarked on a multi-year research project to identify the reasons why poult survival is low using sophisticated technology to track these young birds. In addition, South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks has partnered with the National Wild Turkey Federation to study survival and reproduction research as well as weather impacts on survival and productivity of the Eastern wild turkey in South Dakota.
Better understanding of the causes of the decline in wild turkeys will help inform better state wildlife agency management approaches for this very popular
) Turkey Season Structures As biologists learn more about turkeys, some believe that traditional season structures might negatively affect reproduction, especially if spring seasons open too early. Emily Rushton, a state wild turkey biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said research in that state indicated that 60 percent of gobblers there are harvested during the first two weeks of the season, before hens begin incubating nests, which, biologists believe, might disrupt breeding activity. So, with the support of most state turkey hunters, the department adjusted the season opener to allow more time for breeding before hunting begins.
“Additionally, our research has shown that gobbling, an essential component of turkey breeding, is disrupted by hunting activity and the removal of toms from a landscape,” Rushton said. “Removal of toms, particularly dominant toms, may be impacting breeding activities, and these disruptions could be influencing productivity.”
FROM MISSOURI DOC: Wild turkey populations have been declining for decades, and a conservation expert says the low numbers are due to production.
Reina Tyl, a wild turkey biologist, spoke with Missouri Department of Conservation about the state’s wild turkey population, fall harvest effects and more.
As far as lower numbers, Tyl said poor production of new young turkeys is the main reason, rather than survival or the harvest of adult wild turkeys.
One of MDC’s annual Wild Turkey Brood Survey has been to calculate a poult-to-hen ratio. Poults refer to new young turkeys. The ratio gives an indication how good production was that year.
A female wild turkey with at least six chicks, all perched motionless atop the fence at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. “When we see greater poult-to-hen ratios, turkey numbers tend to increase or stabilize,” Tyl said. “When we see poor production, turkey numbers tend to decrease.”
Numbers haven’t only been declining in Missouri over the past several decades, Tyl said. Neighboring states are also seeing low numbers.
“Loss of quality nesting and brood-rearing habitat, changing weather, an increase in predators, and potentially lower insect abundance are likely all playing a role,” she said.
That’s awesome info Paul.
As many state, fall hen kills as an issue, popular management strategies of the past show a lot of fall seasons including hen harvested, as not negatively affecting population levels. The state of New York and many others proved that 30 years ago.
It’s solely a habitat and predator issue by a large margin. Everything eats young turkeys. If they don’t have cover, with proper amounts of heavy you g succession to nest, population numbers suffer dramatically.
The Missouri study also reinforces a 25 year old article by the NWTF that says to many hens without proper nesting habitat equals less hen nesting.
It’s a complex deal. But, to simplify it, kill all the predators you can. That takes a huge variable out of the equation.
We need more predator trapping and control, despite lower fur prices.
More suitable habitat and lay off the hen harvest. As stated already, when you kill a hen you are also killing a future brood. Hen harvests may not negatively impact a strong and healthy population but it sure as hell can negatively impact a struggling one.
Great info Paul thanks for sharing I was fortunate enough to hunt turkeys in Mo back in the heyday and it was remarkable hoping for the best Good luck Lewis .
I’m still trying to imagine 5 turkey but only one carp when it comes into my head I hear This familiar music and Rod Sterling’s voice that the only Zone that could come from well isn’t it Lewis
Sounds like every state should have 1 Tom limit and no hen harvest in the fall. I’m game for that. One thing I do notice is their seems to be birds of prey everywhere. I’m seeing hawks, eagles, and owls regularly.
I'm not sure the drastic reductions in bag limits that are mostly for gobbler harvest are really a positive solution. Minor reductions might make sense, but in most cases it probably won't do much other than put a real hamper on hunting opportunity. Perhaps the biggest impact would be just that; getting fewer hunters in the woods to limit (minimally) disturbance to nesting hens. Of course, where the average take includes a substantial amount of hens, this could be helpful. In particular, fall hunts where a large portion of the take might include hens, could see a substantial benefit (as noted above).
I'm seeing a trend here that was also noted above, and that is the lack of gobbling even though birds are present. There are probably many reasons for this. Partially, I think it could be related to hunting pressure over time, not only from humans but everything else that chases turkeys. It also seems hens have a greater tendency to move to a tom. Maybe it is a natural response due to the lower numbers and greater need to reproduce.
Here in Illinois, it seems they've gotten out of control with burning, particularly on public land. This isn't the South where 75% of the surrounding land is forest, and it would be hard to burn too much. Burning is good, but it needs to be rotated around different areas. Having large swaths of mature forest cleaned out with little other habitat available can't be good. Turkeys, like most game, thrive on variable habitat within an ecosystem.
Poor habitat and no fur trade. Shoot predators, create edge habitat and don't shoot hens in the fall if the population is declining.
Controlling predator populations is a controversial issue and there are situations where it may have a place, however making an impact on predator population is expensive and labor intensive. Not to mention, removing predators from a habitat completely, can off-set the balance of the ecosystem. Therefore, in order to increase the population of threatened species, biologists and conservationists turn to habitat management for a bigger impact and more results.
Habitat quality is an important part of how a species survives pressure from predators. Early successional plant stages, or those that follow a habitat disturbance and need full sunlight, provide shelter for small mammals, including rats and mice. Those habitats, full of plant diversity, can mean life or death for wild turkeys. If vegetation is sparse hen and poults are vulnerable to predators. If suitable habitat with good cover is available to the brood group, poults have a better chance of living.
What we have learned:
How we manage plant communities is critical to wildlife populations Habitat quality and its distribution are more important than the number of predators Man’s activities can help maintain herd numbers below what the habitat can sustain Conservation efforts must ensure population and plant communities must remain healthy Ultimately, the long–term solution to wild turkey populations is not dependent on predator control, but on man’s activities and good habitat management.
— James Earl Kennamer, Ph. D.
I agree with that. Except all but the elite will never own a land base large enough to live solely by that greed. So, shoot and kill every predator you can. You ain’t going to kill then all.
No one glaring “smoking gun”… this is my short list in no particular order… liberal bag limits, added hunter pressure, predation (from a clutch to killing adults), poor hatching cycles (multiple reasons), and in my area, hogs.
Do everything that you can with what you have. If you have your own land then manage the habitat and predators the best you can. If you hunt public then remove nest predators when and however possible. The problem, in my opinion, is a little bit of everything and maybe even something that hasn’t been mentioned. Is nature bringing population slowly back to sustainable numbers?? Were 80’s 90’s and early 2000’s numbers sustainable?? Maybe and maybe not. We will never know. Here on my place we manage our trigger fingers, burn, plant, manage timber, and work tirelessly to remove nest predators. Even with all that a bad hatch year is beyond our control. Again, do what you can when you can and support those that are trying to figure out if there is a real, identifiable problem. If you have to pick one thing then have the best habitat available.
If I missed this above I apologize. This is a GREAT listen. Mike Chamberlain out of the University of GA is a Turkey researcher. Steve Rinella does a great interview with him.
If bag limits are more than one, do you really need to kill more than that? Especially if you know the bird population is down.
You really need to do your own part
Brad, I agree.
Lee… I’ve listened to Mr. Chamberlain on numerous occasions. That is a great listen.
Hopefully KS will follow suit. I did not buy a tag in Kansas this year because bird numbers on my properties and nearby public were nonexistent. I did kill one in Oklahoma because my friend owns 5,000 acres and I was the only person he let hunt this year. Usually he hosts a winter flock of 200 birds, but they went elsewhere this year. I was able to find a flock of 20 birds though and killed one.
During the height of our turkey population in the 90's, the KDWP was trapping them by the hundreds and sending them to other states. Nobody trapped or hunted predators to any extent during those times. This massive die off has got to do with disease or herbicides IMO. The neonictide seed coating on everything has been shown to cause reproductive problems and Roundup causes infertility in some species. Many of these herbicides are made in China and it is my suspicion those rat bastards are adding things to destroy our environment. Aflatoxin from corn feeders has been proven to kill poults and render hens unable to lay eggs.
The best habitat will attract the most birds in the most predators
Our turkey dies off a few years back was a year when the bird flu killed millions of domeetic turkeys . Had two large flocks on farm . Not unusual to see 20 to 40 birds. No one hunted them. The next year I saw FOUR hens one time all year. Flu is spread by waterfowl and when they flock up in the fall it makes for a fatal stew in my opinion. My farm is a wetland abutting the little Muddy and we hold a ton of ducks.
I believe that there is a big push in the current research to check fertility rates of males, whether they are toms or jakes. Dont know if thatll signal anything that results in deeper research into the infertility possibilities from herbicides n such
MORE ON JAKES: Of course it's possible but in general I think studies have shown most jakes aren't capable of producing viable sperm during the breeding season. Studies have also shown that subordinate toms don't produce the levels of testosterone needed to produce viable sperm. It's not that they won't try its Just the sperm isn't viable.
Another note. Hen wild turkeys breed with more than one tom and store the sperm until it's time to fertilize. The thinking behind this is when she releases the sperm the strongest sperm fertilizes her eggs ensuring the future of of the species. Her original breeding is done not by happenstance. She chooses carefully it's not a rushed decision. After her original mating she goes off to find other toms or possibly jakes to breed with. I would imagine with time constraints in the breeding cycle she's not as picky with her secondary suitors. ( NOTES FROM A TURKEY RESEARCH)
I don't hunt the turkeys on my property. When I disked up my garden this spring turkeys come out and dust in the freshly tilled ground. Not seeing as many as usual but I don't bother them since one old hen will have a nest near my garden and she keeps the potato bugs off my potato plants and I don't have to spray. I'll check with my neighbor, it isn't unusual to see over 100 birds in his fields.
I haven't shot a hen for 25 years. Even though the state says you can, doesn't mean you should.