When you spot 12 adult gobblers in your turkey woods the day before the season opener, tag-punching prospects seem pretty darn good. At least that’s what hunting buddy Dave Streb and I thought last spring when the dozen longbeards single-filed it across the road in front of my truck. Even though we were unable to roost the bunch that evening, I still liked our chances. Well, I’m sure you already know how this one turned out. Suffice it to say, it did not go as planned. Another hunter in our camp called up the flock—and took a bird—more than a mile from where Streb and I had first spotted them. Even more surprising to me, the group vanished without a trace for the rest of the season. Surprise turned to astonishment when another hunting buddy told me he spotted a flock of 12 gobblers a week prior to opening day a full five miles from where I first saw them.
I’ve thought a lot about turkey movement since then and thanks to some early results from an ongoing three-state (New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania) study, some of the mystery surrounding wild turkey movement is gaining clarity.
New York’s State’s turkey movement study project coordinator Mike Schiavone tells me that although those 12 vagabond gobblers might have surprised me, it’s really not all that unusual.
“Thus far we’re finding that most gobblers are taken within five miles of where we first trapped and banded them,” says Schiavone. “We have had some other birds that have taken longer trips. Two gobblers went about 20-miles. In general, jakes seem to move the farthest. Hens do as well and we’ve had several 12- to 15-mile treks.”
Birds for the study are cannon-netted and banded in several counties in the three cooperating states. The metal leg bands bear a toll-free phone number for harvest reporting. About half of the bands are reward tags that can be redeemed for $100. In the past two years, 670 gobblers and 753 hens have been banded in New York State. Schiavone says that 120 gobblers were reported shot by hunters last spring.
This is the third year of the four-year study that is partially funded by the National Wild Turkey Federation. Penn State wildlife professor Dr. Duane Diefenbach is leading the team that will interpret the harvest results. For more information on the project, you can e-mail the DEC at: firstname.lastname@example.org