By Steven W. Barnett, Wildlife Biologist
The one dominant feature in many landscapes that is often overlooked or underutilized in managing wild turkeys is the woodland habitat. So much emphasis is placed on wildlife openings and supplemental plantings that people may be lulled into the perception that planting food plots is all you need to do to manage wildlife.
Wildlife openings are very important to turkeys for nesting, brood rearing, foraging, and courtship displays, but on many properties, less than 1 percent of the total land base is managed in wildlife openings. In terms of the “big picture,” the entire landscape should be managed to provide the same benefits of a wildlife opening and much more. Let’s take a look at some wild turkey management applications for woodland habitat.
One of the most cost effective methods of improving woodlands for turkeys is controlled burning. When properly planned and executed, prescribed fire can promote more native forage plants and create more brood habitat for turkeys than other habitat enhancement techniques. Many native plant species important to turkeys, like grasses and legumes, have evolved with fire and respond well to it. Burning rotations vary depending on the site but average about three years for turkey management.