Many hunters and other nature lovers are wondering; how all the hot, dry weather is affecting the wild turkeys? They are all going die off…
Not necessarily. Wild turkeys do not require very much water on a daily basis, as a matter of fact, they get most of their moisture from the food they eat even if this food appears dry to us. Dying plants produce more food for turkeys; some attract more insects, while others cast off seeds and nuts. There are a lot very arid habitats in the Western U.S. that have very healthy populations of turkeys. That being said, I don’t like the heat or the extreme dryness any more than anyone else but apparently, so far, the wild turkeys are loving it.
If my observation of brood flocks and those of other hunters is any indication; we have an unprecedented nesting success rates here in Wisconsin. In most cases, wild turkeys do better in drier conditions rather than wet especially during the brood
So how can all the dried and dying plants produce the food growing poults need?
There are hosts of insects, particularly beetles that feed on or under the dead plants. These dead and dying plants have seed pods, flower buds, catkins, pine cones, plus failing ag crops such as beans or peas, etc. are all eaten by turkeys, when there is a drought the bush, tree or plant sheds them early making an easy ground food source the turkeys relish. Depending on the area, failed ag crops may not get harvested at all; it’s very likely they may be plowed under sometime after the crop insurance has paid. If these are not turned under or cut for silage, the standing crop will provide food above the snow and valuable thermal cover.
We become dismayed as we watch the receding water levels of swamps, ponds, rivers & lakes. However, the wild turkey must celebrate as the water recedes a shoreline full of high protein dead aquatic delights (minnows, leeches, water bugs & all the different water plant buds and seed pods) are exposed for easy feeding.
The other day I was out in mid-Southeastern Wisconsin where it is currently arid, a particularly parched & wilted corn field was full of turkeys feeding on the immature dried out ears of corn. The farmer, of course, was very distressed, who can blame him as he watches his livelihood turn to dust. Fortunately, crop insurance will help him and perhaps some of our hunting organizations should pay some of these farmers to leave the destroyed crops in the field until next spring to benefit all wildlife and the soil if the drought continues.
Come this fall and the spring of 2013 there should be a bumper crop of turkeys. Wild turkeys continue to amaze me with their survival tenacity.