The chase, the cat and mouse game, the past-time that so many Floridians hold near and dear to their hearts is turkey hunting. Yes, I know you may still be in denial or colors just appear dull even though turkey season ended over a month ago and deer season seems like it’s a distant dream.
You’re not alone.
Although summer and the end of turkey season is a tough time for most hunters, for the turkey, this is the most important time of the year. You may be thinking this is going to be some anti-hunting blog at this point, but no, hunting is very much a part of wild turkey populations and the main reason we have populations to hunt today. The real reason this is the end of turkey season is most important part is because this often coincides with the peak of wild turkey reproduction for the year.
Wild turkey populations like many other gamebirds and ground nesting birds tend to have a boom-or-bust nature. This means that from now until the end of July what happens with turkey populations will dictate how your turkey season may go for years to come. So much so that managing agencies such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission have spent decades trying to understand the breeding behavior and reproductive chronology wild turkeys. This includes tracking females with Global Positioning System transmitter, recording turkey gobbles, and conducting countless surveys. Many of these agencies use this information to set season dates based on what they know about the timing of wild turkey reproduction.
Being the most important time of the year for turkeys and your future turkey seasons you may be wondering what you can do to help and ensure you and future generation have the opportunity to experience the same past-time that you love?
There are couple of things you can do.
Buy your hunting license or at least a turkey stamp.
Wild turkeys, unlike most other birds, are one of 5 bird species that are not protected by federal regulations for wildlife conservation. Turkeys are considered “property of the state” so the bulk of responsibility goes to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission for managing and ensuring a sustainable turkey population. This being the case the vast majority of funding used specifically to managing turkey populations comes from the Florida Wild Turkey Stamp which is purchased as part of a hunting license. This revenue generated from turkey hunters goes directly to managing wild turkey habitat and conducting research.
Since 2005, managers have been able to combine this with other cooperators from the National Wild Turkey Federation and Florida Forest Service to spend a combined $1.9 million dollars on turkey-specific habitat management annually. So, make sure you buy your turkey stamp next year whether you plan to hunt or not!
Manage your property
This is the most hand-on thing you can do to have a positive impact on turkeys during the spring and summer. No, you don’t have to own a 1000 acres, 500 acres, or even 50 acres to have some kind of positive impact. You can do things as simple waiting to mow a pasture until the end of summer, letting pasture go fallow, or leaving field buffer in native vegetation. Or you can do more involved management such as prescribed burning, timber thinning or creating wildlife opens. Even the smallest management actions can make a difference.
If you aren’t sure what you can do, you can call your UF IFAS county extension office or contact the Florid Fish and Wildlife Commission Landowner Assistance Program for anything form a simple question to formal management plans and prescriptions. Don’t have property to manage? Don’t worry organization like the National Wildlife Turkey Federation often host work days on public lands to manage for turkeys or agencies like the USDA Forest Service, FL Fish and Wildlife Commission and Florida Forest Service often have volunteer programs.
So what does being engaged mean? This can be educating yourself on policy or management decisions that may affect wildlife conservation and turkey management. In being educated on topics you can then be an advocate for turkeys and turkey hunting.
Another way to is to participate.
UF IFAS Extension, FL FWC and other conservation groups have field days and workshops on wildlife, habitat and turkeys. So, take the time to go and learn more things you can do to benefit wildlife.
There are also a variety of surveys that FL FWC sends out every year that provide valuable scientific data, such as the hunter harvest survey or summer wild turkey survey. Surveys like these are useful tools for making turkey management decision and rely on your responses to make the best management decisions. Both surveys are available right now. The hunter harvest survey will come to you though the mail if you are selected for a survey, but anyone can participate in the summer turkey survey by visiting this link: FWC Wild Turkey Summer Survey
In the end the most important thing you can do is try to keep informed on policies, programs and ways you can participate and be actively engaged in wildlife conservation and wild turkey management. This active engagement is the best way to ensure wildlife population are sustainable for generations to come.