This Turkey Tuesday is about the importance of green forage to wild turkeys during fall and winter. We often think of turkeys using green forage during spring and summer, but the availability of succulent forage can be critical to wild turkeys during fall and winter. George Hurst, who spent decades studying wild turkeys and what they eat, used to refer to turkeys as “opportunistic omnivores”, meaning they’d eat just about anything they could get their beaks on! While that is true, a common pattern across all subspecies is that when available, turkeys will use any high quality green vegetation during fall and winter when most other forages are not succulent. In many areas, crop fields planted into cereal grains (wheat, oats, etc.) provide this type of vegetation, whereas other plantings such as various clovers can be very attractive to turkeys when the tree leaves start turning colors and winter approaches. Not surprisingly, the importance of green vegetation becomes even more important to turkeys during fall and winters when acorns and waste grains are scarce. And, once plantings such as wheat and oats mature in spring, they provide abundant seeds that are used extensively by turkeys. Likewise, many of the clovers that are used as a source of green vegetation in winter continue to provide forage in spring, and even serve to attract insects that turkeys will use during spring as well. The take home is, providing a source of succulent green vegetation combined with other measures to ensure presence of quality fall and winter habitat, such as wise management of mast producing hardwoods, can benefit your local wild turkey flocks during a critical time in their annual cycle.
© Tes Randle Jolly