It’s turkey time!
When spring finally rolls around, it’s difficult not to be excited about all of the possibilities that lie before us, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s turkey hunting that stirs the most excitement around our state.
In March, I start reading more articles about turkeys, and I wrote about perusing the hunting catalogs for turkey gear in the April 22 issue of MON. Seeing photos posted online by successful turkey hunters increases the excitement and anticipation.
Among stories I’ve been reading recently about turkeys is a blog entry in the March 8 issue of Scientific American online. According to this blog, some in California are wondering if the successful reintroduction of turkeys there has been a detriment to flora and fauna in the state. Turkeys will eat just about anything, the blog points out, and some believe they cause disturbance to the soil that may not be healthy for the land.
I had to shake my head over that one.
Turkeys don’t seem to do the damage to soil as feral pigs do, and one would think that the little bit of scratching that they do on the forest floor would be a good thing for things growing there, the same as it is in your vegetable garden. But I’m no scientist.
Even scientists are conflicted on the subject, the blog says, because few studies on turkeys have been done, and those that have been published were not long-lasting. Government agencies such as the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife have other things to keep them busy and haven’t devoted much time to studying turkeys.
Some of the short-term studies allege that turkeys may be eating endangered reptiles and amphibians, competing with other birds for food and nesting sites, and spreading “sudden oak death” disease, while other studies have not corroborated those concerns.
In Michigan, I’ve only heard people complain about turkeys eating seed out of bird feeders, causing messes in school yards and golf courses, or attacking the occasional mail carrier. I know that in the past, Michigan DNR biologists have been concerned about the genetic quality of turkeys that are increasing in numbers across the Upper Peninsula. Many of them, especially in the east end, are descendants of farm-raised birds that have escaped or been set loose.
No matter, it seems that it’s never been a better time to be a turkey hunter. When my dad and his buddies started out hunting them in the 1970s, few hunters came home with a turkey dinner. That has changed dramatically. These days, about a third of the state’s 100,000 turkey hunters shoot a bird.
May you be one of the lucky 30,000!