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Decrease in Turkey population?

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  • Big MakBig Mak Posts: 4,380 Captain
    Geezoos BF! Must be the beard....
  • Florida BullfrogFlorida Bullfrog Posts: 4,320 Captain
    Big Mak said:
    Geezoos BF! Must be the beard....
    She imprinted on me when she hatched. So did the gobbler. That’s why he started to challenge me. Looks like to have a full flock I’m going to have to get a turkey hen raise the biddies. 
  • drgibbydrgibby Posts: 1,726 Captain
    Many good points and observations made here.
    I agree there are many factors that affect the turkey population.  
    One point that needs to be mentioned is the relative low impact turkey harvest actually has on the population.  If you talk to the biologists, they will tell you that the spring hunting season doesn`t actually open until a large percentage of the breeding has already taken place, I know this to be true from watching the birds around Hernando Co. They are already actively breeding hens 2-3 weeks before the youth season opener.
  • JonsredfishinJonsredfishin Posts: 2,517 Captain
    edited April 6 #35
    Pinman Gobbler has a whole harem, why does he need to Gobble?

    Just thoughts.....



    Have you ever gotten enough? 😆 
    One president put a man on the moon.
    Another president put a man in the Lady's bathroom.
  • shempshemp Posts: 681 Officer
    Not sure how biologists study a turkey population, but it would seem to me some kind of standard procedure would need to be made...maybe consider land in 200 to 1000 acre blocks to account for rotating improvements in a set of blocks (burning, timber harvest, etc.)...and run a feeder for a 4 month period with a number of game cameras around.  

    Anecdotally, numbers are down.  By harvest data, numbers are down.  Also anecdotally, this doesn't account for shot and not retrieved, crippled, etc.

    Technology may have a lot to do with boogering birds (onx, gps/phone, etc.).  Maybe urban sprawl and lack of predator control / lack of a rabies outbreak. FWIW 3x in the last 5 years a friend of mine has shot gobblers and had bobcats pounce on the dead turkey.  1 of the 3x the cat didn't want to let it go.  My bud did not shoot said cat.  This person has been hunting the same region for turkeys since the 60s and had not had that happen ever before. The prevailing convention is thick cover = easier for predators to stalk turkeys = turkeys gobble on ground less.  

  • drgibbydrgibby Posts: 1,726 Captain
    Since Rayonier started third row thinning, 8 or 10 years ago, our turkey population in Nassau Co. has increased exponentially. 
    I agree with the above statement that this practice has made it easier for them to escape depredation.
    In fact we have had our lease for 22 years and until 5 or 6 years ago there wasn`t even enough birds for me to hunt there during the spring.  Last year we took 17 gobblers off the 4K tract.
  • WildManWildMan Posts: 221 Deckhand
    As others have said, there are lots of factors involved, with habitat being the most important.  Broad declines have been observed across the SE for quite a few years now, and appears to be showing up in parts of FL based on harvest estimates I've seen.  The mention of hunting being a cause due to harvest of vocal/dominant birds was more a comment concerning birds gobbling less than they used to, whereas it was suggested that vocal birds are more likely to be killed early and less likely to pass on those "vocal" genes. As far as the decline and hunting is concerned, researcher's are suggesting that early seasons (before peak incubation) where you have high harvest early could be having a negative effect on breeding.  This is somewhat supported by more recent research in the SE showing a higher percentage of hens are not attempting to nest, suggesting they may not have been bred.  As far as FL nesting dates, they are later than what most hunters think.  There are graphs available in Lovett's books from his research on Fisheating Creek and Lochloosa, as well as, information from more recent research in N and Central FL contained in the FWC Turkey Strategic Plan.  As far as killing hens, without enough hens there won't be many gobblers...so I say the more hens the better (except when the gobbler I'm after is henned up).
  • PinmanPinman Posts: 3,044 Captain
    edited April 6 #39
    WildMan said:
    As others have said, there are lots of factors involved, with habitat being the most important.  Broad declines have been observed across the SE for quite a few years now, and appears to be showing up in parts of FL based on harvest estimates I've seen.  The mention of hunting being a cause due to harvest of vocal/dominant birds was more a comment concerning birds gobbling less than they used to, whereas it was suggested that vocal birds are more likely to be killed early and less likely to pass on those "vocal" genes. As far as the decline and hunting is concerned, researcher's are suggesting that early seasons (before peak incubation) where you have high harvest early could be having a negative effect on breeding.  This is somewhat supported by more recent research in the SE showing a higher percentage of hens are not attempting to nest, suggesting they may not have been bred.  As far as FL nesting dates, they are later than what most hunters think.  There are graphs available in Lovett's books from his research on Fisheating Creek and Lochloosa, as well as, information from more recent research in N and Central FL contained in the FWC Turkey Strategic Plan.  As far as killing hens, without enough hens there won't be many gobblers...so I say the more hens the better (except when the gobbler I'm after is henned up).
    So you dont think there is such as thing as "too many Hens" ?  1000 hens and 1 Gobbler on a 1000 acre tract and it would be Turkey hunting Valhalla? 
  • PinmanPinman Posts: 3,044 Captain
    Pinman Gobbler has a whole harem, why does he need to Gobble?

    Just thoughts.....



    Have you ever gotten enough? 😆 
    Nope
  • JohnnyBanditJohnnyBandit Posts: 9,114 Admiral
    I was in Ocala National Forest over the weekend.....  Not overly familiar with the area....
    But turkeys were everywhere..... Mostly hens and Jakes..... But we saw a couple of  nice toms.


    I am not a great turkey hunter...... I USED to be a fair turkey hunter.

    I am planning on hunting turkeys for the first time since 2004 this weekend. And hunting turkeys on public land for the first time ever. I have lightly scouted  three WMA's and found no shortage of sign.....I have seen birds, heard birds talking, fly up, fly down, etc.

    Mac and Turner River made two key points. Controlled burns and Cypress..... Every WMA I have been on has plenty of both. Find them in close proximity.... And I would bet there are birds around.

    Are there less turkeys now? I don't know. I have been out of the game a while. I do know turkeys move around. And little changes can do it. And people can and do cause them to move more often than they realize it. I grew up hunting on a lease off 347 in Levy County. On property that is now part of the Lower Suwanee Wildlife Preserve.  I started going up there in about 1974. I was six years old. My Dad and Granddaddy loved turkey hunting most of all.... In my early years..... We planted food plots for deer... in the fall.... And  that was all we did.... Then we started putting in corn feeders.... For the Deer..... But I always saw a lot more hogs, turkeys, raccoons, crows, doves, etc around those feeders than deer....  Then we learned about Chufa... or at least became motivated to plant it.....  By the time I stopped hunting the area in my early 20's, "our" turkeys and the spots on the property we hunted them had completely changed..... Back then I thought we had more birds.... I never thought about the spots I hunted with granddaddy did not seem to have any birds.   I spent the day up on the LSNWP on March 7th..... Looking for Turkey sign....

    Think about this....... Say you drive past a pasture and there always seems to be turkeys there..... Then maybe someone else starts taking care of the pasture..... Maybe changes the species of grass... Maybe starts spraying herbicides and pesticides........ The pasture looks super green and lush....Looks fantastic to us.... But all of a sudden the turkeys are gone...... Because the reasons they frequented that pasture are no longer there. The caretaker killed off all the insects, weeds(and the seeds that go with them) etc..... The turkeys food source in that pasture is no longer there..  Does not mean those turkeys are literally gone. They are just feeding somewhere else.... Find the food and you will find those turkeys. 

    Drgibby pointed it out clearly..... The landowner of his lease changed their forestry practices..... Now that are broke out with turkeys.

    Maybe there are less turkeys.... or maybe they just moved.... Either because where they were became undesirable or somewhere nearby became MORE desirable....
  • JonsredfishinJonsredfishin Posts: 2,517 Captain
    My friend’s neighbor is the local head turkey/duck Fwc biologist for my area. He said last year they captured and radio tagged 7 gobblers from a local wma. Within a few months one was hit by a car and two had dropped dead from eating moldy corn from feeders on private property. Make sure if y’all see green spots on your corn to bury it. 
    One president put a man on the moon.
    Another president put a man in the Lady's bathroom.
  • hoggatorhoggator Posts: 426 Deckhand
    I lost some chickens to moldy corn.  I can see how would affect turkeys.  The way their crops get affected is very different than hogs. 
  • JohnnyBanditJohnnyBandit Posts: 9,114 Admiral
    A couple of weeks back there was a Big Tom in a neighborhood near me that was wreaking havoc by trying to fight with "other Toms" it saw in the reflection of nice shiny vehicles.
  • Florida BullfrogFlorida Bullfrog Posts: 4,320 Captain
    hoggator said:
    I lost some chickens to moldy corn.  I can see how would affect turkeys.  The way their crops get affected is very different than hogs. 
    I feed my chickens nasty scraps all of the time. And I’ve often fed fermented and moldy corn. Not saying it isn’t an issue. Just that some animals are more sensitive than others.  
  • WildManWildMan Posts: 221 Deckhand
    Certain types of mold on corn/grains are worse than others.  Search Aflatoxin/Aspergillosis as it is the one most likely to create issues with wildlife.  Research has shown that aflatoxin can have negative effects on both deer and turkeys and was also found to be present in a high percentage of wildlife feeders in GA (some at high levels). There are limits on allowable aflatoxin levels for human and domestic animal feed, so corn/grains that exceed those limits are sometimes marketed as wildlife/deer feed which don't have the stringent requirements.  
  • bowhunter4lifebowhunter4life Posts: 1,784 Captain
    I’m calling BS also, jakes and 2 year olds are the first ones to come running to calls or decoys.
  • Florida BullfrogFlorida Bullfrog Posts: 4,320 Captain
    In theory its possible that more vocal birds are being selectively culled from the gene pool. 

    Its generally thought that rattlesnakes were more apt to rattle in warning back in colonial times than today. Those snakes that rattled were noticed and killed while those snakes that sat silent until the human passed were spared. 

    Its also thought that the Florida strain of largemouth bass was more like a peacock bass in aggression and regularly exceeded 20lbs.  Those larger and more aggressive fish were removed from the gene pool leaving smaller and more timid fish to reproduce. 

    In the cases of both rattlers and bass it took several decades or even centuries and massive amounts of harvesting to make the difference. 
  • Florida BullfrogFlorida Bullfrog Posts: 4,320 Captain
    Something else to consider is that turkeys across the country experienced a severe genetic bottleneck in the early and mid 1900s. Prior to their near extinction event wild turkeys were probably much more genetically diverse than they are now. All 7 million or so wild turkeys today are descended from about 30,000 individuals nation-wide across all of the subspecies. Some specific wild turkey populations probably haven’t had fresh genetics inserted into them in a century. Especially not the Osceolas that everyone is afraid to contaminate. 

    The first sign of severe inbreeding in galliforms like turkeys is decreased reproductive vigor. Smaller nest sizes and decreased chick survival rate. Those that make it to adulthood will be less resilient and more prone to die of diseases. 

    It would probably do turkeys good to mix the different subspecies together. It wouldn’t take much. Just releasing flocks here and there that will fold into the local population. They would breed into the native stock. First gen crosses might have a mix of traits but subsequent generations would keep breeding back to native stock. The resulting birds would have the traits of native stock but fresh genes and more vigor. 

    Look how the panther took off after fresh genes were added to their gene pool. 
  • Sixth GenerationSixth Generation Posts: 910 Officer
    Bf, you know way more than me about fowl, but the turkeys that roam my place in southern Columbia county seem to have plenty of mix.  The flocks that feed through have traits from Osceola to Eastern, and some are hybrid.  I do not know how a release of another strain would actually help and would be hesitant to try.  
  • Florida BullfrogFlorida Bullfrog Posts: 4,320 Captain
    edited April 9 #52
    Bf, you know way more than me about fowl, but the turkeys that roam my place in southern Columbia county seem to have plenty of mix.  The flocks that feed through have traits from Osceola to Eastern, and some are hybrid.  I do not know how a release of another strain would actually help and would be hesitant to try.  
    I don’t think all flocks need it. Some of the north east Florida birds will throw traits consistent with domestic turkeys. I’ve seen several grey-white wild hens in Hamilton county within a few miles of the farm I got my grey-white colored domestic hens off. I strongly suspect that farmer’s turkeys have been mixing with the wild turkeys for several generations.

    But we’re pretty unique on the north end of the Florida peninsula. Lots of species hybridize here because this is where the subtropical genetics of the Florida peninsula meet the temperate genetics of the eastern United States, and also where its still rural enough that many domestic animals are kept free range and can intermingle with their wild counterparts. Not just birds and mammals. Many reptiles and amphibians here can’t be identified beyond a generic type because so many similar species hybridize. 

    I would consider inbreeding more of an issue in areas of genetic isolation. A population that is separated from other populations by natural or man-made barrier. Or places that have had die offs and recent rebounds. The rebounds have to come from related stock unless outside birds are brought in for restocking.   

  • WildManWildMan Posts: 221 Deckhand
    While I suspect in some areas farmer's turkeys / released game farm birds have mixed with wild flocks, those off-spring tend to have lower survival and are less likely to pass on those genes.  The grey-white hens you saw are more likely a smokey gray color phase wild bird, which happens to be more common than the other color phases (erythristic - reddish; melanistic-black; albino -totally white).  

    BF as you alluded to, there has been some research looking at genetic diversity among natural vs restored flocks at least in Merriam's turkeys.  Results did suggest there was lower genetic diversity in those restored populations where the same source stock was used (all trapped from same location).  As a result, many more recent restoration projects have been using mixed source stock (trapped from multiple locations and/or from other states).  Also, turkey movement patterns tend to help offset in-breeding with the spring breakup period when family flocks scatter.  Birds may move over 20 miles from the family flock location.  However, as you mentioned,  in those populations that are truly isolated this would likely not be possible.
  • meateatermeateater south flaPosts: 788 Officer
    biologists who dont hunt making decisions on hunting quotas bag limits ect     only thing worse is the non hunting or fishing game wardens out enforcing the laws.   
  • JonsredfishinJonsredfishin Posts: 2,517 Captain
    edited April 12 #55
    This is an interesting read:

    https://forum.gon.com/threads/gobbler-just-sat-down-and-died.964410/

    You might have to be a member to see the turkey pics. 

    One president put a man on the moon.
    Another president put a man in the Lady's bathroom.
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