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How Far Do Turkeys Move?

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February 11, 2008
How Far Do Turkeys Move? - 4

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: fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us

—Gerry Bethge

Comments (4)

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from Casey wrote 6 years 22 weeks ago

Yeah I've had this happen to me too. The birds in my area stay within at most two or three miles from where I last saw them. I noticed that they seem to move around with the seasons. In the winter they like the creek bottom and come spring I have no clue where they go. To get one then you really have to scout and get lucky. Good calling doesn't hurt either! These birds are those spooky Big-Woods Birds.

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from Tony Williams wrote 6 years 22 weeks ago

Gerry,Thanks for finding those birds for me!I haven't noticed that large range of movement in our area. I had one bird roost in almost the same tree all spring a few years back. I never did get him, even with Dave's help.Tony (the other hunter in camp)

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from alabamahunter wrote 6 years 22 weeks ago

I can't say I've ever had that problem. The turkeys we have are always in the same area year-round. They even roost in the same trees. I've also never seen a gobbler flock that was that big. The most I've ever seen together was 7. The only time there is a major shift in where our turkeys are is during the spring when the gobblers all split up.I'm so ready for turkey season!

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from alabamahunter wrote 6 years 22 weeks ago

One more thing. It seems like I constantly hear people reffering to gobblers as "toms". The term "tom" actually refers to the barnyard variety of turkeys, but now is being used to describe the wild turkey also. I guess it really shouldn't bother me, but it's one of my so-called pet peeves.

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from alabamahunter wrote 6 years 22 weeks ago

One more thing. It seems like I constantly hear people reffering to gobblers as "toms". The term "tom" actually refers to the barnyard variety of turkeys, but now is being used to describe the wild turkey also. I guess it really shouldn't bother me, but it's one of my so-called pet peeves.

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from alabamahunter wrote 6 years 22 weeks ago

I can't say I've ever had that problem. The turkeys we have are always in the same area year-round. They even roost in the same trees. I've also never seen a gobbler flock that was that big. The most I've ever seen together was 7. The only time there is a major shift in where our turkeys are is during the spring when the gobblers all split up.I'm so ready for turkey season!

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from Tony Williams wrote 6 years 22 weeks ago

Gerry,Thanks for finding those birds for me!I haven't noticed that large range of movement in our area. I had one bird roost in almost the same tree all spring a few years back. I never did get him, even with Dave's help.Tony (the other hunter in camp)

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from Casey wrote 6 years 22 weeks ago

Yeah I've had this happen to me too. The birds in my area stay within at most two or three miles from where I last saw them. I noticed that they seem to move around with the seasons. In the winter they like the creek bottom and come spring I have no clue where they go. To get one then you really have to scout and get lucky. Good calling doesn't hurt either! These birds are those spooky Big-Woods Birds.

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