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Stumbling Onto Hens or Nests

This Turkey Tuesday is about something that can happen to us turkey hunters while out in the spring woods – we stumble onto a nest or a hen on a nest while hunting. So what should we do when this happens? First, understand that if you find a nest that looks like the one in this picture, the hen is actively incubating it. Hens cover the eggs during the 2 week laying period, but stop covering them once they start incubating. And, if you flush a hen from a nest, she’s likely to return unless we unnecessarily disturb the nest or area around it. Second, it is important to use common sense if you find a nest. Wild turkeys, particularly early in the incubation period, will abandon nests if they feel there is too much risk in continuing to sit there. So, don’t remain in the area, don’t touch the eggs or move them, don’t return to the area, and don’t put a camera there to see if you can determine what happens after you leave. All of these activities increase the risk that a hen will abandon the nest, and it’s not worth that risk given how difficult it is for a hen to successfully hatch a nest to begin with. Lastly, many of the nests that we can encounter during turkey season are first nest attempts by individual hens – that’s important, because most production (poults) in turkey populations is generated by first nest attempts. The take home is, if you bump into a nest or flush a hen from a nest, just leave the area quickly and don’t return. She’s much more likely to be able to make that nest successful if we refrain from doing things that can disrupt her behavior.

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