What are common diseases of wild turkey and what are the symptoms? That’s what wildlife officials were digging into in Mississippi, but now it looks like these dead turkey may be the result of accidental poisoning or foul play. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP), in conjunction with the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) recently released findings associated with the deaths of 15 wild turkey hens in Tallahatchie County. The birds were reported by a landowner to local Conservation Officer Dale Adams, who subsequently collected the specimens for testing.
“We receive diseased turkey reports occasionally, but this case was unusual in that this entire flock had appeared to die together,” said Adam Butler, MDWFP Wild Turkey Program Coordinator. Butler immediately conferred with the Mississippi State University’s Veterinary Research and Diagnostic Laboratory, where necropsies were performed on the specimens. Each turkey had crops filled with wheat seed, along with vascular and pulmonary congestion.
“These birds showed no sign of any external abnormalities, and appeared to be in good physical condition before they died. That, in conjunction with the wheat in their crops and findings of internal hemorrhaging, made us immediately suspect poisoning,” continued Butler.
Wheat seeds from the crops were sent for testing by SCWDS, which subsequently confirmed that the wheat seed had been treated with insecticides. Seeds treated with organophosphates for pest control purposes can be harmful to a host of animals. Treated seeds are nearly always labeled to be covered by a layer of soil when planted for crops or food plots and should not be used as wildlife feed.
The MDWFP rarely recommends direct feeding of wildlife as a management practice. “There’s no legitimate reason to directly feed anything to wild turkeys,” stated Butler. “Follow the supplemental feeding law and use common sense. Definitely, always avoid placing a potentially harmful food source like treated seed on top of the ground where turkeys or other birds can find it.”
It’s almost turkey hunting season in Texas and I’m excited! Not only are the toms getting a little restless but so am I after a cold, wet weather. The spring season for turkey starts on March 21, but a new app can help hunters document their harvest. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recently released the My Texas Hunt Harvest App for iPhone and Android devices, which allows hunters to report harvested game in real time on smartphones or tablets.
Texas hunters can use the app to record the number of harvested game animals, including eastern turkey where all animals must be documented. Hunters can also view harvest history, including dates of location of each hunt. This will help us remember the details, but should not limit our ability to embellish our stories around a campfire. The Texas Hunt Harvest App will be most convenient for hunters in east Texas. Successful hunters can check Eastern turkey harvested without having to visit physical, official check stations. This will save hunters both time and money.
Wild turkey hunting season continues in South Texas counties until May 3. Youth hunters get another shot May 9-10 if needed. The annual bag limit for turkey is four gobblers, but as in the past only one may be an Eastern turkey.
Believe it or not, turkeys were almost extinct in Texas a century ago. Careful population management and support of landowners and hunters have brought the famous bird back from disaster, according to TPWD biologists. State figures show that turkeys now inhabit 223 of the 254 counties in Texas.
The Eastern wild turkey is the most populous of the five subspecies of turkeys — in the eastern U.S. It not as prevalent, but certainly as sought after, in South Texas. Eastern birds are bigger than the two other prevelant turkey subspecies in Texas, with body weights of around 25 pounds. The other subspecies are the Rio Grande and Mirriam’s wild turkeys. Rios are found just about everywhere west of IH-35 and Mirriam’s turkey are limited to the northern Trans-Pecos in Texas.
Let’s face it, spring turkey hunting is fun when the gobblers are hot to trot! Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer birds in East Texas, prompting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to look at closing the spring season in the eastern half of the state altogether. Most years between the early 1990s and 2011, fewer than 200 turkeys were recorded at the mandatory check-stations, where successful East Texas hunters were required to bring their birds.
We are talking about East Texas, so who knows what’s being killed east of IH-45, but with less than a couple hundred birds making it to through check-stations each year it seems like the right decision would be to stop all turkey hunting in the region. I can only imagine there are numerous problems with habitat and reproduction that are making things tough on existing eastern turkey populations, so it’s no wonder that even the TPWD turkey stockings have far from a raging success.
Source: A recommendation to suspend the spring turkey hunting season in almost half of the East Texas counties where a limited season for eastern-subspecies wild turkeys has been allowed. If approved by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, which will consider the proposals for adoption at its March 26 meeting, the changes would take effect September 1, 2015.
The proposal to close the spring turkey hunting season in all or part of 14 of the 28 East Texas counties where a month-long spring season currently is allowed comes as wildlife managers try to address what has been a frustrating, decades-long and mostly failed attempt to re-establish eastern-subspecies turkeys in the bird’s former range.
Since the late 1970s, TPWD, working in cooperation with U.S. Forest Service, other government agencies, universities, landowners and the National Wild Turkey Federation, have stocked approximately 10,000 wild eastern turkeys, trapped in other states and transported to Texas, into East Texas. The effort is aimed at re-establishing the subspecies of turkey native to as much as 10 million acres in the eastern third of the state, but which had been extirpated by the 1940s through a combination of over-hunting and habitat loss.
Well-established food plots should be a part of the wildlife management toolbox on every property. Chufas are great for wildlife food plots, especially for wild turkey and ducks. Chufa food plots may be broadcast or row planted depending on the equipment available. For either method, spread fertilizer (13-13-13) at a rate of about 200 to 500 pounds per acre, depending on the fertility of your soil, and disked in. A clean chufa food plot with little weed competition will produce greater yields than a weedy plot.
Broadcast Chufa planting method: Chufas can be broadcast at a rate of about 40 pounds per acre on the prepared seedbed. Next the plot should be disked into a depth of about 1 to 2 inches. Top-dress the chufas with ammonium nitrate at 100 to 200 pounds per acre when the plants are about 6 to 12 inches in height. Broadcast planting will work for both turkeys and ducks where suitable habitat exist. Continue reading
Wildlife management through habitat management has become increasingly popular in recent years for both hunters and non-hunters alike. Recreational use of natural resources are now at an all-time high thanks to education, understanding, and promotion of our valuable natural resources. Two birds that many landowners are interested in managing for are bobwhite quail and wild turkey. Both of these birds require diverse habitat, but each has very specific habitat requirements.
Native grasses are at the heart of quail and turkey management. Native grasses for better habitat can be promoted in several ways. More often than not, there is a seed bank within the soil that still contains viable seeds. Some light to moderate disking may encourage these native grass seeds to germinate. Of course, natural grass cover still will not happen over night. Immediately after disking, many low successional forbs (wild flowers and other) will flourish, then it will seem only noxious weeds, and then maybe two, three, or fours years later the manager will start to notice some new grass coming in. A big part of plant response depends on weather conditions. Continue reading
Ok, so you bagged a turkey! Congratulations! Often times, turkey hunters often wonder how their trophy stacks up against other turkeys. The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) has an official wild turkey records program.
According to the NWTF, the purpose of the program is to provide hunters throughout the world with a permanent record keeping system that will preserve information on all legally harvested wild turkey taken in the spirit of fair chase.
The records are maintained for Eastern, Florida, Rio Grande, and Merriam’s subspecies. The Eastern subspecies is found in Tennessee. Weight, beard length, and spur length are considered to determine a total score for wild turkeys. Continue reading
Turkey hunters should get plenty of calling action this spring, based on field reports of an abundance of Rio Grande gobblers observed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists. “I have been getting reports from many of our field biologist and they all agree that this is going to be a good season in Rio Grande turkey country due to the 2007 spring and summer rains and mild temperatures,” said Jason Hardin, TPWD turkey program coordinator.
“Some of the guys mentioned last year seeing new poults as late as August. That probably means these birds had ample opportunity to re-nest two to three times over the summer. So, there should be lots of jakes seen, making it a fun year to call in lots of birds. There will be plenty of mature gobblers, as well, so hunters should not hesitate to get in the field.”
Rio Grande spring turkey hunting season opens in the North Zone March 29 and runs through May 11. Special youth-only weekends are set for March 22-23 and May 17-28. The South Zone opens March 15 and runs through April 27, with youth-only weekends set for March 8-9 and May 3-4. Continue reading