Spring Forward For Turkeys

Spring Forward For Turkeys
Previous springs are the main factor dictating the turkey population. (Steve Bowman photo)

Weather during hatches in past main dictator for season's outlook

When it comes to predicting the availability of birds for a particular spring turkey season, it helps to have a good memory.

Because of how the weather conditions were two and three springs earlier typically dictates the prime gobbler population for this season.

There are several factors that figure into the equation, but weather is a chief component – so much so that altering conditions not only can affect production differently from region to region, but even county to county.

“It definitely depends on the areas that you’re in,” said Jeremy Flinn, the Midwest regional wildlife biologist for Cabela’s. “A lot of what happens for our spring turkey season depends on the past hatch success rate. The things that we look at in terms of the hatch success, predators obviously play a big role in that, but an even bigger role is usually the weather.”


“Whenever you look at the prospects for any given spring turkey season, in general you look at the hatch 2-3 years ago,” said Jason Isabelle, a turkey biologist who works a resource scientist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “The bulk of the birds folks are going to be shooting are 2- and 3-year-old birds. In this case, 2011 and 2012 both being good production years, we should have pretty good conditions this spring. I would expect them to be what most folks encountered last year.”


That said, the numbers can vary fairly dramatically in different areas, depending on the amount of rainfall during the spring two and three years ago, again when this season’s top strutters were only hatchlings.For the most part, it all stems from what the experts call the “wet hen hypothesis.”“Basically, the idea being when that hen is incubating, if she’s wet, she’s going to be giving off more odor than she would if she was dry,” Isabelle said. “As a result, nest predators would have an easier time locating her and her nest.


“It’s just like if you were out pheasant hunting or quail hunting, if the conditions are moist, the bird dog is going to have an easier time locating those birds than they would if it was low humidity and dry.”

Several states, Arkansas and Georgia included, have seen their adult turkey population affected negatively in recent years by a succession of cool, overly wet springs.

“Another way that research has shown that could potentially impact production,” Isabelle said, “when the polts hatch out if the egg, they can’t regulate their body heat very well. They depend on the hen to do that. If you get a cold, wet, driving rain when they are relatively young, they can get hypothermia and die that way, too, from exposure. So there’s a couple different ways the weather can impact production.”


Very late freezes can also negatively affect polt production, but adults typically handle harsh conditions rather well.

“When you start talking about places like Minnesota and further north, they can have a pretty substantial winter kill on turkeys,” Isabelle said. “They’re pretty hearty birds in general, but the winters they have up there can be limiting and in large part dictate how far north the birds do go.

“In most parts of the country, it would have to be a real, real tough winter in a year where there was an acorn bust, for example. It would take something like in order to really impact adult survival. But generally they make it through the winters just fine.”


Turkey typically start the spring eating acorns from the previous fall, and they switch to grasses, sedges and broadleaf plants as the green-up takes place. The proteins gained from eating insects are particularly important to the hens entering nesting season.

“In the wintertime, the turkey are able to forage,” Flinn said. “A lot of times you go through the woods during the wintertime and you see major turkey scratchings in the oak flats, where they were looking for some of those remnant acorns. If you can find any standing bean or a field that maybe has been corn that’s been picked and has got waste corn or grain, you’ll definitely see all kinds of birds out there.

“They manage to make it through and survive. There are some that will fall victim to (the harsh winter). But it all really comes back to that springtime period that’s going to affect them more than what’s happening right now.”Also, the drought conditions that continue to strike many parts of the country do not have the same effect on turkey as other wildlife.

“Any time we have a drought, we typically have a little bit smaller areas for the turkey to be able to go through and collect insects and keep high quality protein intake,” Flinn said. “I don’t think you see it as much as you would see a drought affect deer, in terms of having water sources and things like that. So I don’t think the drought had a huge detrimental effect on our bird population. More of our populations are affected during the spring weather conditions than into the summertime.”

Recommended for You

Perfect for competition or a day at the range. Other Hunting

New Gear: MidwayUSA Competition Range Bag

G&F Staff

Perfect for competition or a day at the range.

 Several factors need to be evaluated before reaching a conclusion about what fly, lure or bait Trout & Salmon

How to Catch the Biggest Trout in the Stream

David Paul Williams

Several factors need to be evaluated before reaching a conclusion about what fly, lure or...

Shooters across the U.S. are using this competition shooting mat. Guns

MidwayUSA Pro Series Shooting Mat

G&F Staff

Shooters across the U.S. are using this competition shooting mat.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

After making the switch to Berkley products heading into the inaugural BPT season, Edwin Evers tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead why Berkley baits played such a key role in his recent angling success.

Lure Lock Options Includes LED Light Boxes & More

Lure Lock Options Includes LED Light Boxes & More

Pro angler Jonathan VanDam showcases new offerings at ICAST 2019, including the ultra-thin, big bait boxes, LED-lighted boxes and backpack-able gear lockers. With Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

Berkley

Berkley's Frittside Crankbaits

World Fishing Network show host Chad LaChance had a chance to visit with legendary crankbait master David Fritts about his new Frittside crankbaits from Berkley. LaChance, host of the Fishful Thinker on WFN, also got a few cranking tips from Fritts, the former Classic and Forrest Wood Cup champion.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths. Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton - September 16, 2015

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish. Records

Upon Further Review: 70-Year-Old Catfish Record Voided

G&F Online Staff - May 22, 2019

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish.

          From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll find Bass

7 Best Bets For New Jersey Largemouth Bass

October 04, 2010

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll...

See More Stories

More News

Game & Fish Magazine's October issues include deer forecasts for your state and region News

On Newsstands Now: Deer Forecasts for Every State

Laura Kovarik - September 05, 2018

Game & Fish Magazine's October issues include deer forecasts for your state and region

As a television professional who sees the value and results delivered by traditional television, it's difficult to stand on the sidelines and watch brands turn away from TV as part of their go-to-market strategy. News

In the Outdoor Industry, Television Proves a Key Reach Performer

Mitch Petrie - January 21, 2019

As a television professional who sees the value and results delivered by traditional...

But was it the biggest alligator ever recorded in Peach State history? News

Behemoth Georgia Gator Wows the Internet

Scott Bernarde - March 07, 2019

But was it the biggest alligator ever recorded in Peach State history?

See More News

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×