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The People Studying Wild Turkeys

This Turkey Tuesday is different in that it isn’t focused on wild turkeys per se, but on the people that study them. For decades, graduate students and field technicians have been conducting applied research that has largely driven the science used by agencies, landowners, and turkey hunters to understand turkey behavior, the bird’s ecology, and many other things cherished by us turkey enthusiasts. These people work long hours at often isolated field sites, and their typical field season is a grueling 7-8 months. Winter trapping season characterized by early mornings and late nights, long weeks sitting in blinds, cold, boredom, and a lack of sleep is followed by the chaos of nesting season. Prior to nesting, hens will often exhibit movements to new areas, and the daily monitoring of incubating hens becomes a full-time job. Thankfully turkeys rest at night, because that gives field crews time to decompress, study data retrieved during each day, and make a game plan for subsequent days – the old saying no sleep for the weary applies to field crews studying turkeys. The chaos of nesting season is then followed by monitoring broods, and in my neck of the woods, heat, insects, and lots of humidity. Field season wraps up just a few weeks before classes start each fall semester – and then it’s rinse and repeat. I’m often asked what the best part of my job is, and that’s an easy question to answer – it’s these people. Watching young people dedicate years of their life studying the bird that is our collective passion, watching these people become scientists, become professionals, and become stewards of the resource. The take home is, the graduate students and technicians that compose these field crews are the engine that drives wild turkey research, and the science that contributes to management. Thanks to the guys from The Hunting Public for the photos that capture the essence of a day spent with us catching wild turkeys.


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