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Landowner tips for managing wild turkeys in Oklahoma

Oklahoma

The eggs have been laid and soon landowners will see young fowl leaving their nest sites to begin their lives as wild turkeys in Oklahoma.

These birds will have a large home range so their management can be a bit tricky, said Terry Bidwell, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension rangeland ecology and management specialist.

"Seldom will one landowner control enough land to meet all of the turkey's habitat needs," he said. "Therefore, it is important to evaluate existing habitat and to identify features that need to be deleted, added or modified to improve the area."

Making changes to an existing habitat is more efficient and economical than new plantings. Wild turkeys need to be able to roost in trees with open crowns and horizontal limbs. A lack of these types of trees may limit populations. Wild turkeys also need some cover to use for nesting.

"Nests are usually located in thick ground cover close to the edge of fields, roads or some type of edge such as a creek," Bidwell said. "Alfalfa fields, stream banks, hillsides with grass and shrubs provide good nesting cover in the western half of the state. Lowbush huckleberry, grape vines, grass clumps and dead brush tops provide good nesting cover in eastern Oklahoma."

Water is essential for everyday life as a turkey, as well as food and escape cover. Turkeys will feed anywhere food is available, provided they are not disturbed.

"Eastern turkeys tend to feed in mature hardwoods or hardwood-pine associations with open understories and small openings," Bidwell said. "They require large continuous expanses of hardwood timber for winter range. Western turkeys tend to feed in mixed grass-shrubs associations with small woodlots and forested stream corridors."

Finally, the young fowl need pastures or small forest openings, associated edge and fields dominated by grasses or other plants with good insect population for rearing.

Wildlife biologists with OSU's Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation or the USDA Soil Conservation Service can provide specific recommendations to landowners.



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