Tracking summer turkeys
New York’s spring turkey hunting season may have ended two months ago, but like deer hunting, I am starting to find myself becoming a year-round turkey man. Being able to regularly observe summer flocks in recent years is surely part of the reason.
Two years ago some strategic logging was done on my property and one of the intentions was to improve, both long and short term, habitat for deer, turkeys and other wildlife. Property management has become sort of a hobby of mine and, other than on scorching hot days, I’m just as happy in my woodlot as anywhere.
Turkeys have been hanging around, on and off, for about the last decade but the logging has really encouraged them to frequent the area the last three summers. Turkey hunting on and around my own property has been a long-term goal and this past spring I took my first ever gobbler here and also got a bird with my crossbow last fall. Now, I want to keep things going.
This year we’ve been watching a flock of three adult hens that started out with 14 poults. They showed up in mid-June and seem to be doing quite well. As I write this, the poult count is at nine. The fact that there are three hens in the group is likely the reason for the high rate of poult survival as we’ve got our share of coyotes, foxes and fishers around, and unfortunately, feral cats. So, hats off to the hens.
The flock has grown recently, sort of. While the original flock lost some poults another pair of adult hens with some smaller poults just joined the flock this week. I’ve only seen them twice, so there is still some observing and counting to do.
Of course, I don’t expect all of the remaining poults to survive. In years past we’ve seen similar flocks dwindle to few, if any, poults. Last year however, two flocks merged about this same time and there were two adult hens and nine poults going into the fall hunting season.
I can’t say it’s been the same in what I’ve seen in my summer travels. I’ve spent some time this spring and summer in the Adirondacks, where generally turkeys are doing well compared to other parts of New York State. It’s not uncommon to find turkeys in tall grass along roadsides. We’ve seen our share, but not the number of poults I’m seeing closer to home.
Finally, one thing all of us can do is take part in DEC’s annual summer turkey survey, which takes place during the month of August. You can learn more about it here: dec.ny.gov/animals/48732.html.