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Managing Turkeys vs White-Tailed Deer

This Turkey Tuesday is about managing for turkeys versus white-tailed deer. In some ways, the old adage “what’s good for deer is good for turkeys” misses the mark. Deer are adapted to run into thick cover and hide when threatened. Fawning cover is often dense, as is bedding cover. In fact, when we think about managing food plots for deer, we often manage plots near dense bedding cover. Conversely, turkeys are adapted to being able to see danger approach, their vision is their primary means of defense. Yes, nesting cover is often dense, but outside of that one month each year, turkeys spend their time in areas where they can see. So when we think about managing food plots for turkeys, we should be thinking about open vegetation surrounding that plot – this is a fundamental difference between managing for turkeys and deer. When you think deer, you think cover, but when you think turkeys, you should be thinking vision and open line of sight. That being said, one huge similarity in managing for turkeys and deer hinges on disturbance – such as the recent prescribed fire being used by both critters in this pic taken by Jacob Dupree. Both deer and turkeys require disturbance to stimulate vegetation – whether it be prescribed fire, timber stand improvements, disking, or even mulching or mechanical brush management. Yes, deer typically require less frequent disturbance to maintain quality habitat than do turkeys, but both species are linked to disturbance that promotes succulent vegetation. The take home is, whether your primary focus is on deer or turkeys, you need to be thinking disturbance – spending time disturbing vegetation to stimulate succulent green vegetation nets benefits to both species.

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