In this episode, Jon Teater (Whitetail Landscapes) and Marcus Lashley (University of Florida and Wild Turkey Science Podcast) discuss turkey habitat, biology, and designing a property for turkeys. Marcus explains the lifecycle of turkey and how they choose habitat types to survive on the landscape. Marcus explains habitat options and preferences that are critical to survival of hens and poults. Marcus explains the importance of research and the related data, and what is being learned as it pertains to the current turkey population.
Jon discusses various goals for clients and examples of nest sites that he has observed on the landscape. Marcus discusses the limiting factors in most forest settings and how to change those on the landscape. Marcus explains how to develop understory plants in a forest setting and ideal setups to create better nest success. Marcus discusses options and vegetation considerations for nest success and how spacing can be critical for hens. Marcus discusses transversable areas, structure, visual observations, overhead cover and limiting predator interest.
Marcus and Jon discuss brooding areas that provide feeding and cover options for turkeys. Marcus details the timeline and the essentials for poults to survive during the first few weeks after hatching. Marcus and Jon discuss the ability for poults to thermoregulate and how climate is critical for the first few weeks of survival.
Marcus and Jon discuss winter survival. What to look for when it pertains to habitat options and food to ensure turkey populations are less impacted by cold temperatures. Marcus and Jon discuss ideal property layout examples, food plots and preferred habitat types. Marcus explains the benefits of habitat improvement to other small mammals. Marcus explains more about predators and the impact on turkeys. Jon ends with an explanation of what is critical to managing forest stands for turkeys
Check out the Sportsmen's Empire Podcast Network for more relevant outdoor content!
[00:00:00] Welcome to Maximize Your Hunt, the podcast dedicated to those who want the most out of their hunting property. This podcast explores land management habitat improvement and hunting strategies that will help you maximize your time in the field. Follow along as industry professionals that live and breathe whitetail deer, share their secrets to success.
And now the founder of Whitetail Landscape. Your host, John.
I'm John Titer, Whitefield Landscapes. This is Maximizer Hunt. Welcome back everybody. Hopefully everybody's doing well. I have, I'm going on the road again. I've got clients throughout New York this next couple weeks and I'm gonna be working and cutting timber on a few clients. And, I've had a good chance based on the last couple of podcasts to think more thoroughly about topics.
We did soil health last week and I broke down. Some of the natural [00:01:00] amendments things that I think about. We're gonna talk more about food plots coming up. I'm trying to take a different perspective on things. Nothing is in the box. Everything's outta the box and we're trying to. Not have, different opinions, but taking as many opinions as we can to get a better perspective on things today.
I'm excited cuz we're gonna talk about Turkey habitat Not too long ago we talked about grouse habitat. Myself and Todd Waldron broke down how to develop habitat in a landscape for grouse. We're gonna talk about turkeys today. I've had a diff different perspective. I'm in the northern latitudes, I'm dealing with northern hardwood.
It's a little bit different from some of the other Savannahs or Southern Pines. So there's a difference in how we approach based upon indicator plants or plants in the landscape. But it's thinking more in depthly about how to optimize your property for turkeys. Turkeys have big ranges, there are summer ranges and fall ranges are different.
And thinking a little bit more obscurely about that point and identifying what areas of improvement that you can make, I have some opinion. I've done some work on the landscape, some [00:02:00] implementation work, so I have some thoughts on this, but I'm certainly not the expert, so I have got somebody who's much more knowledgeable than me on this podcast.
Let me get 'em on the line. Hey Marcus, are you on the line? Yep, I'm here. Hey, how you doing? I'm doing great. How are you? Good. Marcus, last who's on the line. I've listened to your podcast. I want you to tell me a little bit about your podcast, a little bit about you, where you're located, and we'll go from.
Sure. So as you mentioned the, one of the co-hosts of Wild Turkey Science and that, that podcast, it was the original idea of it was for us to deliver information to people on the science of wild Turkey management and ecology. And we have a whole bunch of studies going on all over the United States.
There's some up. and your neck of the woods up in the northeast as well. And the idea was not only that we could, we go through some of the existing literature base and connect people to [00:03:00] what we know about turkeys, but also connect people to the ongoing research in these different places. Why it w you know, it was originally developed and what we're learning from it in more real time.
And all of that was really in response to. Concerning data that we've had, particularly in the southeastern United States, but. In many parts of the range of wild Turkey and several subspecies. We've had some indicators that there's a decline and a lot of the research has been spawned in response to that, trying to understand what are the underlying factors that are affecting population.
So that's the idea. That Will Goby and I initially came up with, and when we were looking for ways to make that happen, we actually partnered with Turkeys for Tomorrow, which is a conservation organization nonprofit, focused on turkeys. And they liked the idea and. Partnered with [00:04:00] us and allowed us to make that thing happen.
So that's how that all came to be. And it's been a big part of my program. I'm based here at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, and I've done extensive work, particularly habitat management, re related work on game species. and most of that work has been in the southeast, but I have done some work up in the north, northeast and up in the Midwest as well.
Bounced around and worked on a variety of topics in different areas, but most of it has been grounded in habitat management. Yeah, that's great background on you and I have listened to you for quite a few years. You and Craig Harper are just interesting guys to listen to
Yeah, I appreciate that. Yeah. And it certainly helps somebody in practice, consulting or providing recommendations on the landscape. So I appreciate all the input. Absolutely. So let's talk a little bit about, . Yeah. And goals could be as simple as, we want to increase we'll say Habitat for [00:05:00] pulse or we could create, better nest success or better reproductive opportunities in field settings or sure. We want to increase the volume of turkeys and the landscape, though we're thinking a little bit macro level. So when you're coming up with these goals and thinking about the ideal city, most people, if you started with the basics, , they wanna see more turkeys, , and then they want more Turkey hunting opportunities in that case.
And in most cases, we're worried about population and the dynamics of that population, is really critical to this evolution of how we're gonna manage the landscape. And we can both probably safely say that 80% of our success is gonna probably boil down. handling or managing the habitat in some capacity?
Sure. That number is probably variable. Sure. But in generally, that's probably the numbers we're gonna work off of. , I'm gonna start with the basics and it could be, site specific or location specific, regional specific from it comes to when it comes to a nesting. in your opinion.
, depending on [00:06:00] the forest setting that you're dealing with. And in my case it's northern hardwood forest, but in, in the forest that you're most familiar with, how do you create a great nest success situation? Comparably to guess, a lot of places they're dealing with, mismanaged forests or invasive plants in shoreland areas, what are ideal settings and ideal, descriptions of what those are like?
I'm interested in your point of view. Yeah I think it, it certainly applies to upland hardwood forests and pine forest as well. One of the principle things that is needed to develop a high quality structure in the understory for nesting is sunlight. And if you're in a closed canopy forest condition where the system is light limited, one of the quickest ways that you.
Stimulate plant communities and start to develop that structure that you're looking for is by releasing some sunlight into the, to the understory. So that could [00:07:00] come through a variety of means, but that's the limiting factor. And it really doesn't resonate with people. Most of the time when I'm talking to about this, it's for some reason more intuitive people if they think about.
Western Texas, for instance, water is limiting there. So if you get just a little bit of rain, you know the plant community explodes. The same is true in the east. It's just a different. Resource that's limiting the plant community response. And that generally in these systems is light. So that's what I'm initially thinking of at the really basic level.
If I'm trying to develop nesting cover or other components that we'll talk about that you mentioned light is what I'm thinking about principally first. Yeah, that makes sense. So Marcus, when I think of deer, we typically use the threshold of 50 inches and. , and when we're talking turkeys and we're talking cover food, et cetera.
, when we're talking [00:08:00] turkeys we're talking one to three feet in a normal, a normal basis. . So when we're developing nesting habitat or structure on the landscape, vegetative structure. Yeah. Let's get into some of the specifics of where you've seen ness. Why, what are the indicators and the landscapes that would create that. How do we develop that nest success? . Yeah. I've actually been a part of and I've. Privy to information from a variety of projects that have looked at wear hands to decide to nest in multiple systems, including some upland, hardwood, and generally what we're looking in for in.
The understory is n principally that it's a developed understory. So if you're in a, you know that forested system, you have enough light that's to support that plant community. And it typically will be some mixture of herbaceous plants that grasses and Forbes with some woody structure as well. So it's a, Completely herbaceous dominated, but [00:09:00] there generally is a component of herbaceous.
One of the really interesting studies we just covered recently on our podcast they from the Tennessee work, they actually tracked where the hens were nesting, and then looked at what that composition looked like and how it influenced nesting. And the interesting thing that came from it was exactly what we're just describing, where you have that mixture of herbaceous and woody cover.
So think about if you were in a field up where you're at, it'll take a little longer to get to this stage. But if you have grasses and Forbes mixed in, and then some shrubs start to colonize and you start to get that shrubby s. in it, that's really where a large portion of their nests were in that study.
And when they occurred in. That scenario, the nesting success was substantially higher. In fact, it was like twice as high as [00:10:00] it was in the poorer areas where they were finding nests, which were more typically those coast canopy forest conditions or fields that were dominated by some sort of non-native grass.
So in either of those scenarios, the nesting success was far less. If we take that to another system to give you a vision of that one of the studies that I was a part of, we were in Pine Savannah, and this was in the Carolinas, and in that situation we had this really open forest type in the uplands that was being burned frequently.
So the cover was really heavily dominated by. By herbaceous cover, but as you transition down into the bottom ones cause of the higher productivity and the less frequent fire we got into that transition ecotone area. , and that was more a mix of that herbaceous and woody structure. That I'm talking about.
And in that study, the nesting [00:11:00] success was in, was up in the 60 sixties in terms of percent sur survival of the nest to hatching, which is about three times or almost three times what we have been seeing in these studies across the grand pers. . So the nesting success in that kind of situation is substantially higher than what we would expect when you don't have high quality nesting cover round.
And in most cases, that includes herbaceous cover mixed in with some sort of shrubby component, with regenerating trees. Let me let me step through this a little bit. In the north, depending on the nesting period, and we could have nesting earlier where there's very little herbaceous material, so you're relying on woody structure.
, could be Yep. Canes could be shrubs small trees, falling over deadwood, et cetera. . So that structure is very meaningful during certain periods of the year. . And [00:12:00] then sure. Once you hit mid-May, at least again, in the northern latitudes, you start to get that herbaceous, slay, that grassy component comes on.
, a lot of times you're dealing with, a lot of non preferential fess at very typical Sure. Some of those grass types, and you're talking about grasses and sedges, and in this case, you may have some standing broom s that's been previously there. , there's a structure, so you're starting to think about.
Elements, at least just physical structure for protection purposes on the landscape. Now, let me just add another piece to this. I think I talked to Chamberlain about this maybe a couple years ago, and I said typically de deciduous structure, old hardwood settings, , they're good for certain times a year, but this distance from these field settings, cuz a lot of times I think in nest success scenarios, you've got this structure and this, the shape and size of this structure is meaningful.
Meaning that , the particular nest is hidden. It's concealed, it's camouflaged. So Sure. When we develop deer habitat, we're thinking along those lines of how to create the right amount of [00:13:00] structure, the spacing, that structure. Can you be a little more specific? Like I've. , I've seen nesting locations that are in the open hardwoods.
, I've also seen nest areas that are in like almost impenetrable huts of just thrown over vegetation. That's s just degraded over time. You would think what they call rabbit habitat or rabbit huts. I've seen 'em nest Sure. Within those areas, , what have you seen on the landscape that would.
Kind of ideal. If somebody could go out there and create nesting areas, what? What would that look like? Or what could you do physically utilizing structure? And I know this is time of year contingent. So I'm kind , I want maybe mil a little more detail in that respect. Sure. W well, to, to address one of the things it's been said, but, and I've heard various Turkey researchers say this that turkeys are weak nest site selectors.
And I think that that is confusing in some ways, but it's also. Enlightening in others. So what we will see very [00:14:00] commonly in a lot of these nesting studies and chamber one would know as well or better than anybody, the Nest site selection. You will see a wide range of places where hens nest in these studies.
So they're not all picking what we would characterize as. Structure. The one thing that I commonly when I'm working with landowner, one thing that I'm bringing to their attention is just because you find a nest somewhere does not mean that is a good place to nest. So keep that in mind when you see Nest.
Just because you see one. I think that's important. It seems, it's obvious once you tell people, but I think we do that a lot. We see nests in places and then assume that's the place to nest. And that may not, may just be that good nesting areas are suitable or that he may just be bad at it.
Some of Chamberlain's work. He was talking recently. I was asking him about it, and he's, he literally said some [00:15:00] hens just seem to be bad at it. , the same hens might produce the majority of pulse and they just seem to be really good. They choose good places and, but when I'm talking about good nesting cover, I'm looking at.
In these studies, the nest that are in particular areas that perform much better in terms of their survival compared to other areas that are available in the landscape. So I think that's one thing that sometimes is confusing to people. They hear, oh hen will nest everywhere. That does not mean that everywhere is equal for nesting.
So keep that in. With that being said, some of the work suggests that the hens, they don't like to nest near each other. So one key aspect, is when you're trying to design your landscape, make sure that you have multiple places set. For the same [00:16:00] purpose. So in other words, if you're trying to create nesting cover, that's one key element that I don't think is always thought of is to make sure that you have high quality nesting cover in different places.
So with that being said I'm trying to. Hold on to your question. I think you were asking me how to design those, or like the size or the practices to use to Yeah, you, with Whitetails for example we have thresholds of what a bed, what slope they're on. The , the volume, the structure, the height of the structure, the density of the structure, just Sure.
Just your opinion. . Yeah. I think in terms. What I'm typically thinking about, especially if you have a lot of terrain like you do there, if we're looking at south facing slopes or places that you can get, the higher. Higher penetration of light. A lot of times in more in the south we're using the, some of these forest management practices like forest stand improvement [00:17:00] or shelter wood harvest or some sort of harvesting regime like that to increase sunlight penetration.
We also commonly will use fire to stimulate those. I know that may not be a tool available to you depending on where you're at. In your part of the world. Yep. But we're trying to promote. That understory response of the herbaceous and woody cover, and generally, I'm thinking of an acre or two of that as a, the low end of how much you would have in that patch.
And think about in, in that structure, we're really looking for something that is Travers ible. It's not like what you what do you call it? The impenetrable rabbit rabbitat, or, yeah, something like that. Yeah. You, you don't want it to be that dense so that it's not travers.
For turkeys, but you do want a high degree of visual obstruction. And then think about it from the perspective that hand. So [00:18:00] we want it to be an obstruction of vision from a predator's point of view to her, but such that it's something that she can see out of or over. So think ab, think about what the height of vegetation looks at.
And from a hands perspective, a lot of the time she will actually have visual line over that cover. We're talking about just a couple of feet tall, so that's where the visual obstruction where she can hide in that, but she can also see over it. And then that'll become even more important when she is brooding.
So we'll see high use of that in terms of what the Nest sites actually look at. I talked with Craig Harper about this quite a bit when they were doing the Tennessee work, one of the most important components that they were choosing in that type of structure that we've been describing is they will actually select a place that has some overhead cover from one of those shrub.
And that was a pretty important predictor in terms of the [00:19:00] success of the nest. Yep. And w so having some taller vegetation interspersed within that is okay, I guess is what I'm getting at. They will choose. To nest under that. But it's really a balance trying to make sure that it's Travers ible, but it's also providing you a high degree of visual obstruction from the predator standpoint, that her obstructing their view of her.
And really I think that's one thing that's been. That's come to light from a lot of these studies that he is most vulnerable while she's on the nest or while she's brooding. So that cover to protect her is your principle concern. So making sure that she can avoid being detected from some of these visual, these larger predators.
You mentioned coyotes earlier, be making sure that she can conceal herself from those predators is critical. And you think about if she [00:20:00] gets killed, that's a lifetime of reproduction. That nest is really less consequential overall to your population than that he is. So when I'm thinking about.
Trying to provide that sort of structure. I'm really trying to make sure that she has the concealment cover that she needs to make sure that she's successful. And I've seen quite, quite a few nest in upland hardwoods where. You can see the hen from 20 or 30 yards away sitting on an S, that's just not putting her in a good situation.
So that's what I'm trying to accomplish, is making sure that we have patches of vegetation, even if it's an acre or two where we have that higher density vegetation. that she can conceal herself in. And I'm, that's what I'm trying to provide in many locations so that we accommodate the, this apparent competition between hands where they don't wanna necessary each other.[00:21:00]
So let me add a little curve ball into this, cuz you've really got me thinking more. Is there an element of thermal to consider in this design? I like the overhead for concealment. . But is there also an element for. Reducing dampness. For the hens specifically, she produces an aerobic, I would say smell to her.
, because of that, is there another consideration there? Would you have a thermal component? Coniferous tree, I guess you could probably build a roof. Not to sound, people do crazy things. Yeah. Yeah. Just to add to that, is there an element of that to consider?
I definitely I do not think she's sinless, so I certainly think that plays a role in it. And one of the things that's interesting about that, now that you've got me thinking about it, is I suspect if you are creating a w, if you're using some sort of four stand improvement, I suspect you're elevating the temperature.
, which. It should make air rise there. So [00:22:00] you actually may be benefiting her from that standpoint, just by having the higher sunlight, that ed should pull air in and, send a column up, which is an interesting thought. Yeah, I would also think this soil type would be another consideration.
We, I deal with this. With Darrell, and you're looking. , just the infiltration, and water infiltration and considering that on the landscape. . So there, there's probably a strategy to building these in ideal scenarios. And like I liked your point is don't pay attention to the obvious because sometimes the obvious is absolutely incorrect.
It's thinking more about these individual elements that you could broke down and conceal. Sure. Let me get off nesting for a second, because that was pretty, pretty involved. Let's go to brooding habitat and I think that's , that's the next phase of this is, animals need to be fed and to develop and insect life is critical.
There's ideal environments, and I want to think, generally speaking, we've got these upland forest settings. We're talking springtime, early summer months. What's b brooding habitat like? From a design [00:23:00] layout standpoint, what are the ideal scenarios? And I wanna look at it from a hen standpoint and her pulse standpoint because the pulse can get into really small areas where the hen is a little more limited, physically she's more limited. So thinking through that a little bit more in depthly . Yeah. I think one of the most important points and something that, that has. Opened my eyes is thinking about that pole right once it hatches in about the first 10 days of life.
That is the, that's a real bottleneck on survival right there. And we see it in a bunch of studies that the studies up in the. Or the data from the, some of the northern states is showing a little better pull per hand ratios than what we're seeing in the South and in the Midwest. So that's a good sign.
But one of the things that has been eye-opening to me with some of the research is, We don't often have tot rearing cover in high quality across the landscape, and particularly in the south. [00:24:00] Several of the studies are showing that it's basically non-existent on the landscape here. So that's a of concern.
But the other problem is that when we do have it as not juxtaposed to nesting cover, such that once the hen hatches. That pole, they don't have to travel very far to find high quality brood rearing cover. And I think that is a real important thing when you're thinking about design is making sure that you're pairing those two things together because this, this little thing, it, it can't regulate once it hatches.
And for about. 10 to 14 or 15 days that, it's not thermo regulating, it's not as preflight. They're tiny little balls of protein for something, right? So that, that is a critical part of its life cycle, that it, you don't want to expose. To the risks. [00:25:00] Basically everything wants to kill that pulp.
And normally when I say that, people think about predators, but remember I just said it can't thermoregulate. and I think that's one of the big things that we miss. If you have nesting cover and then maybe you have rooting cover that's a few hundred yards down the hill or whatever, and traversing between those two literally may kill the pulse due to exposure.
So even if there are no predators involved, that's still very high risk because they don't have the type of high quality cover that they need to just to thermoregulate that. It doesn't even include the forging for insect or predation risk. So I can't stress that enough that having those two things close together.
Is really critical to enhance productivity. So the, Marcus, this is a great point. So you have the relative distance you threw out a number, a couple [00:26:00] hundred yards, let's just say, that's probably a reasonable number. 50 to 150 feet, maybe more or less. Something that range.
But let's talk about the thermal aspect of this. So what's the mother's role in that and what. qualities in the landscape could help fix this concern because once, once she gets that clutch going, the pulse hatch, she's gotta get them fed and grown so they can hit that fly threshold.
Exactly. And at some point they're not able to fly very high . , . So the first couple weeks there, they're they're just ground birds and Yeah. They're easy to get picked off. So what can we do to help that? . Yeah. So that's a great question. And you're exactly right.
When they're pre-flight they're sitting there and most people immediately go to predators. But like that, everything will kill that, that pulse at that stage. And I think, we have undervalued the role of the thermal environment and that, when I say that, usually most people [00:27:00] think of, oh, they get too cold.
It can actually go either way. We're probably that they're probably dying more, I would suspect in your neck of the woods from being from cold. But probably heat on my side. But the point of all of that is there's a narrow range of temperatures that they can survive in. And one of Chamberlain's studies, it was with Brad Cohen and a couple of other authors, they actually went out and measured all of the places that broods were being taken and tried to measure that thermal range.
And they found a single digit proportion of the landscape was actually staying within those bounds where a pole would not literally die from exposure. from temperature. And so I think it's important for you to think about that in terms of what the hens role is. First of all if you've seen I've posted a video like this before and I've seen some online.
When those pulses are really small she will, for a couple of [00:28:00] days at least have 'em at the Nest site and she basically is protecting 'em under her wings. There's pictures online of her doing that even on the limb. So she's playing some direct role in that Therma regulation through that and other, protecting 'em from other things.
But really, when she's out with the broods brooding, they're foraging around under the plant community and that's. I think that they're really at risk because the mother's not directly, accommodating their thermal requirements. So that's where the vegetation structure is.
Key, is key. And I think based on. The literature that we have, you really want a forb dominated community. So just a broadly herbaceous plant. That really is the best case scenario to have a plant community that's dominated by that. It can have some native warm season comp grasses, like your broom ed or those kinds of plants mixed in.
But we really want it to be [00:29:00] more dominated by this herbaceous Plants. Those sup not only support really high insect production, but they also are supporting a thermal environment that stays within those bounds. And there's been some really cool work, and I've got some some work ongoing about this as well.
That's a really great buffer from getting too hot or cold. And not only that, you're also affecting the visibility of those pulses from particularly overhead predators, which can be, a primary cause of death at that time as well. So really, by providing that high quality cover, you are accommodating all of those risks at the same time when they're most vulnerable out foraging, along with.
I think that's really interesting. And I like the ideas of the herbaceous cover. And then obviously the protection of grasses. You brought up, some grasses there, Archerd grass, Timothy, those are other grasses. Clump grasses in our areas that are prevalent. [00:30:00] All right.
Let's go one step further. We're talking about. brooding, and I want to get into which is relevant right now is winter survival. And I know that's a left field thing, but it's important to me to describe this because this is a big concern in the northern latitudes because they have limited resources food resources and landscape.
In your opinion and I can tell you one thing that I've just seen, I see this year and year out when they're spreading manure that's a valuable resource for the turkeys and the landscape. And I would consider that supplemental. If that's not the case, and there's not a lot of manure standing corn.
What are the environments the turkeys are living in, generally speaking, and how can we help them through the winter months? What would be a strategy from a habitat standpoint that would get them a little further down, down the road. . Yeah. Yeah, I don't think that's left filled at all.
A few minutes ago I mentioned your pole to hand ratios. Up there. Yep. Are, and this is pretty common across the northern breaches of the species that pole [00:31:00] to hen ratios are. are actually much better there. So seems like in that earlier stage of life that we were just talking about there's probably fewer reasons to that.
We'll just say than there are and maybe some of the southern latitudes. But where that is offset is exactly where you're about. You have a much harsher winter and getting through that winter. is much more difficult. I think there are a couple of things that are really important, contributing to that.
One as you alluded to, is food resources and. and ensuring that you have food resources available. Acorns will be a, one of those principle things that help them to build fat and have those reserves and be in good condition through the winter. And I think that's one thing that's absolutely critical.
You could also potentially supplement that. Things like planting food plots of high density foods like the corn that you talked about or other [00:32:00] grains. Those could be important resources as supplementation, Having places, particularly if you're a place where you have really high snowfall.
I think having some areas which may be some of those denser forest areas where they can escape that snowfall or have that. Refuge from exposure to those really cold temperatures. Making sure that you have that kind of loafing area available as part of this habitat matrix is probably much more important to you there than than I would be worried about in, in the, our southern climate where we don't, we're not worried as much about.
Those extreme temperatures during the winter. So I think, managing for a diversity of cover types and four stand conditions can really go a long way. One thing that you mentioned earlier that I think is a good way [00:33:00] for you to think through this is, , you talked about having force management practices, some sort of variable retention harvesting regime.
Yep. Where you are intentionally within stands generating a high degree of. variability in the basal area of trees that you remove or retain and that management practice is really important. Cause when you are generating that variation in sunlight penetration, that diversity that you stimulate in plant community conditions in close proximity because they're within the same management unit, it can be really critical.
And it provides. Quite a, all these resources at once in close proximity. And it may include some of that, loafing area that helps them escape the elements. And also, high sunlight areas, it might be more appropriate for nesting and brooding all in the [00:34:00] same practice.
So if you implement that sort of harvesting regime in your timber management you can really accomplish a lot. Not only providing those different resources, but also providing them in close proximity to one another. Yeah. I like the way you wrapped this up and I'm gonna, I'm gonna wrap this up in, in kind of the ideal and we're gonna, we're gonna let you design really quickly a ideal scenario in our areas.
Just utilization preferences, looking all season. If you had, a third I would say mature hard. Managed with very species, ash, o Hickory. And then we're gonna go next. We're gonna have maybe a shrub land or pastured area that's overgrown and then agriculture. A third.
A third. Explain to me from your perspective, ideal scenario, because a lot of people are, create this diversity. Obviously diversity's king. Having specific species, we, we could get in by burnham's choke cherry. I'm just thinking all the different plant species that I want in the landscape.
For, deer or turkeys. [00:35:00] What is Marcus's ideal layout and set up from a percentage standpoint? A struggling could be a component of it. And we didn't get into specifics of, how to manage hayfields fallow areas. Sure. Shrub blends, right? There's a lot of things, what plants we want in those areas to create kind of these ideal scenarios.
But at a high level, what are you trying to create from a diversity standpoint, on your landscape to hold, hold or attract turkeys maybe all season and that, that was the example I was just bringing up. Yeah, I think if you're in. that scenario where you already have it broken up in relatively even situation.
Kudos to you because you're in a really good situation, . Yep. Yeah, I think I, what I normally see is that the majority of the landscape is Sunlight Limited, and I am looking to increase the level of that to, like the nesting cover, for instance, at least double digit percentage of the landscape.
And if you could do that with the nesting and brooding cover, [00:36:00] I think you're already getting in pretty good shape. Okay. Having some of that area that's more dense forest and maybe you have some that's not even, oak dominated, that can still play a valuable role. I just think it typically is too abundant in terms of the majority, soften the majority of coverage.
So typically I'm thinking about reducing that down and that could be. Through a variety of timber management practices, like we've talked about, to make sure that you have a large proportion of the landscape with relatively high sunlight, even if it's forested in the fields. In the south at least, we typically see.
Either the food, the openings are mana being managed as food plots. And those are often in a variety of species that are not very conducive to turkeys, particularly during nesting and brooding. And or we are seeing those used in some, [00:37:00] or managed in some sort of non-native mat forming grass. And like you may have rescue.
or orchard grass or something like that there that's more prevalent I'm typically thinking about how to convert those openings into something that's more conducive for reproduction, particularly brood rearing during, that late spring, early summer timeframe. So if you're, in that situation where you can get into double digit percentages of open ground that is in something that's conduc.
To brooding in particular, I think that you're gonna be in really good shape there with a high productivity, Turkey population. So that's not to say that some of it can't be planted in some sort of grain or even if you have competing interests with deer, planting something that both use really.
Really well some some of your clovers, for instance, could be incorporated [00:38:00] into that matrix. But what I normally see missing pretty broadly across the landscape to include in that neck of the woods is that brooding cover. So think about how you can incorporate that into your openings, because often those produce the highest quality.
Brooding cover is in, associated with your openings where you might otherwise be planting it. Completely think about setting aside some of that to dedicate to brooding or planting things that are more conducive to brooding during that time. I don't wanna, I don't wanna skip over this point, Marcus, but there's another aspect of this and I want to end on.
We didn't focus on predator management in this and we, we did that. , we did that by design. We want to talk specifically about habitat design and elements. Sure. When we're coming up with a plan and we think about some of these predators, coyotes is a good example, how they move across the landscape.
They have a tendency to flow through the landscape on a core scale. [00:39:00] They like to follow logging roads. Sure. Path of lease resistance. . , one of the strategies, I even employ this word dear in developing fawning habitat is limiting their accessibility in areas. We talked about that when I was on the, what we did, the grouses the grouses discussion.
, how to create escape opportunities and cover and limit accessibility. You brought up I guess a point earlier about. The hen looking over, some form of structure, concealing, camouflaging her, et cetera and limiting intrusion in those areas. How would you throw that into the design?
And I wanna end on that because this is more the offensive tactics of things. We're not gonna deal with predators, but we're going to offend them in some way where the, it's they're less apt to get to, the animal we're trying to support in the landscape. What's your perspective on. . Yeah, that, that's a really good point. And yeah, really good question. Something that's very strong interest from a lot of people. Most of the time when people think about predator management, they think about removing [00:40:00] predators. But what we these practices that we're talking about, you're increasing concealment.
When we look at these in studies, we actually get. More out of that in terms of reducing predation by providing the animals that, in this case, turkeys the opportunity to escape. So that comes through a variety of ways, one through concealment. But also in some situations with, particularly with nesting cover, that reduces if you have high quality nesting cover, it might reduce the use by coyotes cause it's less conducive to their coursing.
Coursing behavior. You're exactly right. Developing some of these higher density, high quality nesting areas will reduce their use. But another key element to that, that I don't think is as intuitive is you also are providing a high degree of alternative [00:41:00] resources for the predator uhhuh.
For example, developing that high. Structure also makes a more productive small mammal community. And, coyotes will obviously eat small mammals and instead of hands, right? So that's one thing that you could benefit from it. Another really interesting study, I was just at a conference and they laid this out.
It was pretty interesting with coyotes, they showed that if you increase the fruit production and the understory, Fruits are really easy to catch. It turns out for a coyote. You actually could see diet switching of the coyote, two fruit and insects and and less focus on some of our price species like deer farms and turkeys on the nest.
That's another tangible outcome that you see from these types of habitat management approaches where, , you're making it harder for them to travel in those [00:42:00] locations and also find the hen, but you're also providing them a lot of other really high quality resources to choose as an alternative.
And when you collectively put those together, we see a much larger effect size on predation re, reducing predation on turkeys or any other game species. That uses these by the accumulation of those different things, we would see more reduction in predation than you actually see.
Typically, when we study. Predator removal itself. So with that being said, there, there are studies showing with a variety of game bird species that if you get this habitat work in place and you really have knocked that out where you have high quality cover for all of these different aspects, adding the predator trapping in with it can give you an additional, bump in, in recruitment.
But really, [00:43:00] The literature is pretty clear that providing these components in, together like that is, has this cascading effect on different factors that are reducing predation risk. Very interesting. The and you brought up the point earlier about the scat that, we, if you look at animal scat that's a good way.
To diagnose. , what they're eating, what their biome sure is taking in. So I know you, I know. Will. I've listened to him on your podcast. He seems like he's the poop man. Yeah, man, he's big into analyzing scat and to pay attention to that, and recognize that some of the coyotes, for example, here, I, you're paying attention to that in a landscape.
What's the consistency? What's in that scf . And you'll see the diets, shift big time. Sure. These are highly fruited areas. We crab apples, , blackberries res berries across the landscape. They're eating those at an all-time high during cer certain points of the year.
They're diet shift. Sure. Their preferences are gonna shift, [00:44:00] but those. I would say those early brooding series periods, they're , they're very, the fruit is not available. There, there could be some standing fruit, but likely unlikely in those cases June, July, you start to get into some of the various plants and it's thinking about what those plants are on your landscape that does reduce, that predator prey relationship as well because, there, there is alternatives and.
Again, the resources on the landscape become meaningful. Hence we go right back to habitat layout, design setup, considering what resources are on the landscape and what magnitude and what richness, and that's really critical to thinking about design and layout. The other thing I want to just.
Commandant really quickly, is that vertical diversity uneven age. We've talked about forest management on this podcast quite a bit. I've got my opinion on , how to lay out forest stands and how to set things up, but that vertical diversity where you've got a lot of tree height variation and as a result of that, the understory plants respond really well.
And so a [00:45:00] lot of times we're thinking about from a timber management stand, horizontal diversity. Sure. Those become I would almost say monocultures and we're talking about polycultures and it's really important for us to develop those on the landscape. And diversity adding, if there's seeps, how do How do you benefit, your wildlife as it relates to seeps and the related plant life?
Hawthorne comes right to my mind thinking about , kind of those crab apple, Hawthorne type plants in and around those areas. How heavy are you gonna cut in those areas? Usually 20, 30%. What's the gap between. Your stream management zones to shrub land areas and just thinking the layout and structure of everything.
This is where you start to juxtapose all these different resource types and create the kind of ultimate design. And you can get really technical in this stuff, Marcus. . And that's where my business is, but, When it comes to turkeys, this is next level stuff, man. And I appreciate you taking the time with me today.
We didn't talk about prescribed buyer herbicide, thinning tactics after, you take down some of these areas, how do you manage 'em over time? But there's , there's a lot that goes into kind of setting up your landscape for [00:46:00] success for turkeys. And result in other species that, that we didn't hit on today.
So I appreciate all your knowledge and input because I think this is extremely valuable and I think you can resource yourself out on your property and you run outta space, so you gotta buy more land. That's that's the beauty of this thing, . Yeah. That's what we all desire to do that, right?
Yeah, absolutely. . Thank you for the time. I wanna promote your podcast. There's, we have a lot of listeners on this podcast. Yeah. Yeah, it's Wild Turkey Science and it's available any of the major places that you might find a podcast that's also available on YouTube. So yeah, I really appreciate you giving a shout out to that.
Yeah and thanks for having me. It's been really fun talking to you about this stuff. Yeah, this is great. I can't wait. Hopefully we can have you on again. We can talk about something else, but I love the podcast. It's awesome. It's we've g we focus on deer on this podcast, but I think it's good to, shout out to, other, other animals that, that, that are important for us, especially ones that we wanna harvest.
I appreciate you taking the time outta your [00:47:00] day. Yeah. Thanks for having me. It's been fun. All right, we'll talk soon. Thanks Marcus. See ya soon.
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