Manage your land for turkeys this fall

Manage your land with tomorrow’s wild turkeys in mind.

Follow these five tips to improve your property for turkeys. These tips can be implemented now to improve habitat conditions this fall through next spring/summer.

According to Dr. Craig Harper, a wildlife professor at the University of Tennessee, some key habitat management practices to implement now through fall include:

1.           Implement prescribed fire.

2.           Kill non-beneficial trees and promote those that help turkeys.

3.           Finish the year’s spot-spraying in old fields and other early successional plant communities.

4.           Plant cool-season food plots that will provide turkeys additional foraging opportunities.

5.           Create openings in strategic areas that can become strut zones come spring.

1.           Implement prescribed fire. “September and October are outstanding times to burn,” Harper said, “especially in your woodlands that have been thinned to allow 30 to 50 percent sunlight to reach the forest floor. By using implementing low-intensity prescribed fire in your woodlands every one to two years, you can establish and maintain an understory dominated by herbaceous plants that provide foraging opportunities and good brooding cover. Burning in late summer/fall typically promotes forbs and helps reduce competition of woody species.”

              Harper says an important consideration for your burning regime is keeping the scale of your burns relatively small.

              “Conducting more relatively small burns (2–10 acres) well-distributed across your property, as opposed to fewer large burns, better distributes a variety of conditions that provides food and cover resources for turkeys throughout the year,” Harper said. “Every day is a potential burn day” Harper says, but burning at this time of year is important and should not be overlooked.

2.           Kill non-beneficial trees to promote those that provide hard and soft mast for turkeys is an important Forest Stand Improvement practice if you are interested in improving wild turkey habitat. In most woods, there will be trees such as sweetgum, maples, ash, sycamore, etc. that do not provide much for turkeys. Killing these trees and promoting beneficial tree species can make a big difference. Oaks and various soft-mast producers such as black cherry, black gum, mulberry, and flowering dogwood should be favored. 

              “Promoting a variety of hard and soft mast producers is important because they provide food sources at different times of the year. You should strive to manage your property in such a way that your woods and fields are providing something for turkeys year-round,” Harper said. 

3.           Finish spot-spray applications in your fields and other early successional plant communities. Although summer is waning, you still have time to influence the plant community in early successional communities by spot applications of glyphosate to kill undesirable plants. It is much more efficient and productive to kill what you don’t want that plant what you do want.

4.           Plant cool-season food plots that will provide turkeys winter foraging opportunities. “Late summer/early fall is a great time to plant annual and perennial clovers,” Harper said. “Awnless winter wheat and oats also are attractive to turkeys next spring as they eat the seedheads. Clover patches not only provide forage, but also insects are abundant in these patches next spring/summer, and these spots are great areas for strutting.”

5.           Create openings in strategic areas that can become strut zones in the spring. 

              “If your property has some topography, it’s good to identify elevated areas the birds will use for gobbling and strutting,” Harper said. “If you have a ridge top in a wooded area, you can open that up simply by using a backpack blower and killing some trees to allow sufficient sunlight in to a strip say, 5 to 15 yards wide and 100 yards long, or whatever area is available and planting annual clovers, such as crimson and berseem. Gobblers are drawn to those spots like magnets.”  If you want to find some great deals on seeds, then check out our partners at

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