Each season I tell myself "___ season" is my favorite game animal to pursue but I really do think it is hard to compare anything to the anticipation and excitement of Spring turkey season. No matter where you hunt, Spring turkey season is magical but I have been blessed to call Missouri, one of the top turkey hunting destinations in the country, home my entire life and I never take for granted just how good hunting in the Show Me State can be.
For the last 10-12 years, a vast majority of my hunting has been on small tracts of land in and around Southern Missouri and for the most part, it has lived up to expectations. My family farm is a prime example of how small tracts can produce awesome hunts. Unfortunately, two years of poor hatches and habitat destruction is taking its toll on the turkey populations on the places I love to hunt the most.
In the 2018 Spring Turkey guide published by the Missouri Department of Conservation, hunters were warned that while Missouri is still a prime destination, hunters may have to work a little harder to fill their tag. 2016 was a very poor hatch; this will result in fewer two year old gobblers. 2017 was not much better for poult production. Mother Nature can be cruel but she can also be forgiving. While we are off to a very cold 2018 season, it remains to be seen what turkey production will be like this year. One to two good seasons and turkey numbers will rebound. The one thing they cannot rebound from is habitat destruction.
According to the National Wild Turkey Federation prime turkey habitat includes:
🍃 Trees for food, daytime resting, escape cover and roost sites
🌱 Grasses that provide food for adults and poults
🐣 Nesting habitat, including developed understory of vegetation and overhead cover
🐛 Brooding habitat that is insect rich and provides cover
Dad’s farm is 100 acres but only has 10-20 acres in timber. The rest is crop land or pasture but the farm has been surrounded by other properties for decades that provided ample nesting habitat and as a result, this small tract of land produced a lot of turkeys. Today this is not the case.
My son and I braved the unseasonably cold elements for this year’s youth season on the family farm and were incredibly disappointed in the lack of turkeys on the property. A two day hunt produced zero gobbling and only one visual turkey sighting. Remember that in year’s past, there were a multitude of birds due to the right habitat components but urban sprawl has played a significant role in the flock’s decline on my parent’s farm.
Within a half mile of our family farm there has been:
🏠 A new home built on 5-7 acres of nesting habitat
🌿 7 acres of nesting habitat converted back into pasture
🔨 10-20 acres of nesting habitat cleared to make way for a new subdivision
There are still plenty of trees for roosting and escape, food and water but a critical component in the reproductive cycle of wild turkeys, nesting habitat, is disappearing due to urban sprawl. And it is not just around our family homestead. Farm land that has been in production for generations is being developed at a rapid pace as more people spread from urban areas to experience country living and who could blame them? The only problem is as more housing developments are created past the city limit signs, more habitats are sacrificed.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to fill a tag. Three jakes came into our set gobbling and in full strut. It was a sight to behold and I was thrilled to experience such an enjoyable hunt. After breakfast, we took a drive to scout potential hunting sites for next week and I was shocked to see homes or new construction on many of the farms that have been so good in the past.
There is no sense complaining about urban sprawl. It is reality and it will force hunters to develop other options. It should also motivate us all, hunters, land owners and conservationists, to take action to ensure the habitat that is left is as good as it can be.
Here are some things you can do to help save wild turkey habitat:
❶ Join the National Wild Turkey Federation:
No, you may not own a farm or hunting property but you can certainly take a stand by belonging to an organization like the NWTF. In fact, you should consider belonging to other organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and the Quality Deer Management Association as well. If you value hunting and the outdoors this is an easy action on
❷ Visit your state’s conservation website for tips on how to manage your property:
The Missouri Department of Conservation not only has online resources but will mail residents, free of charge, a complete library of land management resources that benefit all wildlife.
❸ Bring in the pros:
It will cost you, but hiring a professional who can help you manage your farm or recreational property is an excellent way to ensure you are doing the right things to create habitat where both turkeys and other wildlife can thrive. And some states may have programs to provide financial assistance.
❹ Be mindful:
I myself intend to have a cabin on acreage to retire on but trust me when I say careful consideration will be given to when and where my future home will be built. This is my opinion, but I believe most developers do not even consider wildlife habitat when building a new community; they just want to build houses. If you intend to develop land or build a home outside of city limits, be mindful of where you break ground. Anything you do to the landscape will have a ripple effect.
Every time I see a large tract of timber or a sage field bulldozed I get a little sad but I also realize this is a part of life. I plan to do what I can on the properties I hunt, own and manage to provide the best habitat so my kids and their kids can enjoy the sport of turkey hunting for years to come. I would challenge you to do the same.
I had an epiphany the other day. If you know me, you know that it gave me an immediate
headache (just kidding). But it happened during a team workout. I was complaining about flutterkicks, you know, the one where you lay on the ground and hold your legs up and kick them around. Yeah, that one. And this thought crossed my mind, “Good heavens, my legs are HEAVY! I strongly dislike this,” give or take a few choice words not to be mentioned out loud. Although, I'm pretty sure I said a few things out loud because Mike said to me, “You do know you do that to yourself right?” And once he
explained what he meant, it made my mind go into a whirlwind of thought. What type of things do we give up in order to train for something specific?
I'll just start by giving an example of my training goals at the moment. In short, I want to lift weights. Big weights. Weights that truly challenge the structural integrity of my body. We are talking hundreds and hundreds of pounds. Ok, I think you get it. In order to do that, my body has to match my goal. In order to lift big weights, guess what, my body and more specifically my legs have to match. I noticed it most during flutterkicks. My legs have gotten significantly heavier, therefore I have to work a LOT harder to do longer duration exercises like flutterkicks. And here's the thing, I am MORE than willing to give this for that. I may hate flutterkicks and struggle whole heartedly at holding my legs up, but guess what, it means I don't have to struggle so hard at lifting 400 and 500 pounds. Now maybe you see where I'm going with this.
We all (hopefully) go into training with an idea of what we want. For me, strength is king. Always has been. For others, maybe athleticism is more of what they are training for. To be agile and quick. If my goals are to lift as much weight as possible, sure I can add some agility type moves into my workout. Am I going to be great at them? No, probably not. I'm going to have a lot more of me to try and move quickly. But remember, that's not my goal. This could very well be the opposite for someone looking to have the quicker more agile training approach. Gaining large amounts of muscle mass for these people is going to make that type of training more difficult and possibly make them unsuccessful.
Everyone has a different mindset about their training. We approach things differently. But it is ALL fitness. Someone trying to lift hundreds of pounds can easily be looked as as fit. Someone that is training for functionality or athleticism can also be considered fit. The things they are good at, are going to differ quite a bit. And that is where this title came from. This For That. It is something until recently, like 24 hours ago, that I never really considered. And honestly, I think it's something that so many people get caught up in. They want one thing, just to look across the room and want something else, never settling on a path to reach a certain goal. This process can usually lead to people stagnating, or even leaving their path to wellness all together.
When I say give this for that, I don't want you to think that you can't train for something and change your mind about what you want. You most certainly can. It's a matter of finding that one thing you want to train for the most and committing to that plan. That is why nowadays I am OK with struggling at certain things. Some of those things happen to be things that in the past I happened to be good at. I know that those things can help me reach my goal, but I also know that my goal is not to be great at flutterkicks.
My goal is to be great at deadlifting and bench press. My goal is to compete with others that have that same goal. As you figure out what path you want to go down on your wellness journey, stop worrying about those little things that have all of a sudden become a bit more difficult.
Sometimes those things whether thoughts, exercises or skills, aren't crucial to you achieving your goals. The real worrying starts when we sit back and allow ourselves to just become mediocre.
Don't be afraid to give a bit of This For That.
Contributions made by Fit2Hunt Staff!