by Josh Fuqua, Game Lands Maintenance Supervisor, Southwest Region
The wild turkey has a long rich history here in the Keystone State. Although the Eastern Wild Turkey at one time here in Pennsylvania had extremely low populations, we now have a thriving turkey population for all to enjoy. There are many different factors that go into turkeys having a sustainable population. We are going to look at one of the key components for turkeys and the keys to identifying them to make you a more successful hunter.
So what key are we talking about? One word: Habitat. Turkey habitats can vary widely across the country as it does even here in the Keystone state. From the rolling hills, to the big forested country, or the agricultural farm land, habitat plays a crucial role for the wild turkey. It provides turkeys with roosting sites, bugging and foraging areas, nesting cover, and security throughout the year. Why is it important for us to identify these habitats as hunters? This knowledge can improve our chances of being a successful hunter and gain knowledge of turkey’s patterns.
Locating turkey habitats could seem like a daunting task, depending whether the area you are hunting is public or private ground. But knowing that all turkeys have the same basic needs and wants can help you to narrow down the search quickly. We will look at some of the needed turkey habitats in, that can be useful to identify on public or private ground.
Another foraging area turkeys love are lands that have recently had a prescribed burn performed on them. Turkeys love to return to these areas to forage for dead insects, or nuts that have been exposed for the finding. The Pennsylvania Game Commission routinely performs prescribed burns on State Game Lands and Co-op Farms to improve the habitat on them. Many times I have witnessed turkeys walk right into a prescribed burn area on the very same day it was burnt to start foraging in the freshly-burnt landscape.
Some really great areas are ones that have had prescribed burns conducted on them. Also great areas are those that have early-successional habitat. In my job with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, I have been able to implement these types of practices on the State Game Lands that I am tasked with managing. Although I am a big hunter myself, it is very satisfying to me to know that I helped to improve the habitat to benefit the turkeys and also to give other hunters an opportunity to harvest a turkey by improving the areas they use.
This past 2018 spring turkey season was very satisfying to me. I harvested a nice gobbler on one of the State Game Lands I am in charge of managing. Then the following weekend, I was able to take my wife out and she was harvested a great gobbler, too. What made her hunt really special is that we had just built and planted the food plot she harvested him in the year before. It was a picture perfect hunt with the big Tom full strutting down the food plot from one end to the other right to us. I was so proud of her and to know that the work I had been a part of benefited the turkey and also gave us an opportunity to harvest him was amazing,
If you look for these key habitat types that turkeys need, you can improve your chances for harvest success and create great memories this season.
Josh Fuqua is a Game Lands Management Supervisor and avid hunter from Indiana County, PA.