Wild Turkey, The King Of Stealth
The definition of stealth is “a cautious and surreptitious action or movement”. Every turkey hunter knows that gobblers are stealthy, but until recently we may not have realized just how much.
A recent study in Louisiana (Gross et al. 2016 Wild Turkey Symposium) focused on how male wild turkeys respond to hunting activity and pressure. Twelve male turkeys were captured and fitted with GPS transmitters and their movements were monitored before, during and after turkey hunting season. When hunters entered the property, they also carried GPS transmitters so their movements could also be monitored. This allowed the researchers to monitor normal male turkey movements and roosting habits and any measurable response to hunting pressure.
The results were interesting and could help hunters manage for increased harvest success. They have been summed up below:
- Days that hunters were present, there was generally an 8% increase in daily movement of male turkeys and an 18% increase in roosting distance. However, this was not considered a significant change.
- There are no “average gobblers”, turkeys are individuals and respond in different ways. Turkey responses to hunting presence were variable among individuals. Some gobblers are just not “huntable”. One individual gobbler was bumped by a hunter on opening day, he walked about 2 miles until he was off the property and roosted on the adjoining property that did not allow turkey hunting. He stayed in that spot until two days after the turkey season was over, then he walked back to his original roost and stayed there.
- Turkeys that survived the hunting season tended to more often encounter areas of great hunter presence, suggesting a learned survival behavior in spite of the presence of turkey hunters.
Management recommendations from this study are as follows:
- It may be easier to harvest turkeys that experience less hunting pressure, since turkeys experiencing greater hunting pressure may learn to avoid hunters.
- Land managers or hunting clubs could try sectioning off turkey hunting areas or zones and open them for turkey hunting at different times during the turkey season. This could provide hunters with the opportunity to hunt less experienced turkeys.
Be conscious of the pressure you are applying to wild turkeys. This included scouting, calling and shooting. The most experienced turkeys may become impossible to kill.