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At my camp in Southeast Highland County, this picture shows the population of turkeys that I was used to in 2016. Something changed after that year and I am not sure what happened. I would get in the tree stand to deer hunt and groups as large as this one would walk by throughout the day. And they could be seen in the bean fields when just driving down the road. These large groups are no longer around. Just small groups of 3-5 are seen and that is not often. I am sure that it is not hunting pressure. It is a region of privately owned smaller 20-80 acre parcels of wilderness camps and farms and everyone knows everyone and camera surveillance is extensive by most owners. Raccoons have always been around. And bobcats have been showing up on many cameras for the past few years which is new to the area. Is it reasonable to assume that the bobcats are responsible for the decline in turkey numbers?
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I don’t think it’s predators either. Turkeys seem to be following the earlier patterns of the grouse and quail, both of which disappeared from Ohio before the bobcats really became numerous. And it is happening all over the eastern U.S. I think the problem, whatever it is, is more related to the overall decline in birds and insects everywhere. It’s all very disturbing to me, and I don’t even hunt them!
 

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Have there been any studies by ODNR (or other wildlife orgs) into the fluxuations of the turkey population? Has ODNR expressed any concerns or opinions?
 

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I have not heard of any studies in Ohio, but several other states are studying the decline. Georgia, Tennessee, New York, and others have studied or are studying currently. Arkansas is reported to have an especially large drop in turkey numbers. Disease and climate change, along with the usual predator and habitat suggestions are being considered. One Field and Stream article reported the U.S. is down 800,000 turkeys from peak levels (from 2004 to 2014). I would imagine since 2014 that drop has accelerated.
 

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If you are up for a listen, The Hunting Public had a nice video this spring with Dr. Mike Chamberlain a turkey biologist down in Georgia. This video is basically a podcast in video form. Lots of interesting information on the current research that is going on. It's a long listen at well over an hour but well worth it in my opinion.

 

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If you are up for a listen, The Hunting Public had a nice video this spring with Dr. Mike Chamberlain a turkey biologist down in Georgia. This video is basically a podcast in video form. Lots of interesting information on the current research that is going on. It's a long listen at well over an hour but well worth it in my opinion.

I too have listened to Mike Chamberlain's content here in this video. He also appears on the MeatEater Podcast and provides a plethora of data on turkey behavior, predators, current population trends, etc. Definitely covers the whole spectrum of turkey science.
 

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Mike Chamberlain seems to be a turkey guru, but I was kind of disappointed in this podcast. As he said being the coach and seeing the whole field is critically important. But from the podcast what did he say was the reason for the decline in turkeys? In the end he is mentioning habitat improvement to help things, which I agree is important. In Ohio the late 80's and early 90's we had an explosion of turkeys because the DOW was block stocking birds and populations exploded everywhere. Initially Ohio only placed birds where there was 9000 contiguous acres of hardwood habitat. We soon learned that turkeys didn't need that and many flourished in other habitats and the population just kept growing. I wish I had an answer for what is happening but I don't. I am concerned that it could be some sort of a disease related problem like West Nile. We can list all sorts of issues such as nest predation, habitat loss, wet springs, changes in the make up of predators, or any other theory about what is causing the decline. But the bottom line is as of today we don't have a coach who is seeing the whole field.
 

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Well said Bawana! There is rarely one solution to these issues that’s the magic wand.
 

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Doesn’t it seem so much like what happened to our grouse? Habitat is still there, yet all you hear from the state about the grouse is disappearing habitat. Guess if they don’t have an answer they have to make a stab at it.

But the turkeys seem to be declining even faster. We know insects have decreased dramatically in the last 20 years (you can see it on your car windshields), and studies of bird populations in general show we now have 70% of what we had in 1970 (I do think habitat has a role in that - especially grassland). I read the average young lady in her 20s is about as fertile as her grandmother was in her 30s. Is it all related?? Are birds and insects just the tip of the iceberg to come?
 

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At my camp in Southeast Highland County, this picture shows the population of turkeys that I was used to in 2016. Something changed after that year and I am not sure what happened. I would get in the tree stand to deer hunt and groups as large as this one would walk by throughout the day. And they could be seen in the bean fields when just driving down the road. These large groups are no longer around. Just small groups of 3-5 are seen and that is not often. I am sure that it is not hunting pressure. It is a region of privately owned smaller 20-80 acre parcels of wilderness camps and farms and everyone knows everyone and camera surveillance is extensive by most owners. Raccoons have always been around. And bobcats have been showing up on many cameras for the past few years which is new to the area. Is it reasonable to assume that the bobcats are responsible for the decline in turkey numbers?
View attachment 54471
I have been hunting the Wayne national forest, seven days in, and haven't heard a gobble. Places, where last year I found many turkeys, this year none ! I don't get it ? But I will keep trying !
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
If they died off or got eaten then I would think that there would be feathers all over the place.
 

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Jmo, but the turkey decline is not quite like the ruffed grouse decline...the turkey lacks the weaknesses and the wildness of the ruffed grouse.
That does not make one decline trump the other...just different in several measures.

When one notes a decline in habitat with the turkey, that takes in the reality that turkeys can exist in more habitat types than one....not so with Bonasa U, for viable populations.
And yes, there exists good grouse habitat today...but, empty. However, most have long understood that earlier mentioned weaknesses and wildness of that bird does not play well with a fundamental change in the woods...from habitat aging to more people out and about to more predators.
Fundamental being the operative word.
Weather, I suspect, hits both birds at hatch and post-hatch.
The aforementioned nest predators like raccoons certainly matter for grouse and the coyote may affect the turkey more, imho.
The bobcat....bad news for both.

Insect decline?
More bad news....all over and beyond game declines.
Same for the loss of prairie lands.
Same for Ogalala aquifer issues...and on it goes.
*forgot to add disease but most today also accept that disease is a reality...killing being not necessarily the main issue of disease....weakening any bird that is already stressed and stretched is a bad deal.
Many grousehunters have screamed disease for a couple decades but few really cared...hunters or other, as there was too much good news that built reputations.

However, turkey declines themselves?
Like most declines a mix of factors but perhaps the lure of banquet tables led to that bird seeing a profound population gain ...with populations a bit artificial and just waiting to decline.
The ruffed grouse saw the same boom from Canaan Valley logging 100+ years ago and then it crashed...that is what happens when false help arrives to a critter.
The turkey story tho will have a better outcome than the ruffed grouse.....as turkeys are tough and respond to help with comparable ease.

Will turkey hunters accept the wait for a degree of positive turn...or accept that peaks are not sustainable?
They better..it will make their Life easier.
They also better realize how lucky they are....same for the deer boys.
We all orta consider those bugs too and all things beyond our own interest.
 

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West Nile virus. That what’s many believe has decimated the grouse population, so why wouldn’t it impact the Turkey population the same since they live in comparable habitats throughout the state? An old friend of mine and avid grouse hunter (Even today) was in a study with PA DNR and of his harvested grouse in 2018, 80% of them tested positive for west Nile....
Something to consider bc there’s definitely something very negative going on with the Turkey population.
 

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This has been studied for a good spell.
I seem to recall that WN was found in NY ruffed grouse some 15 years ago.

It remains that turkey are lucky tho each year can increase the complexity of their existence.

*Plus, turkeys have been considered as a carrier for spreading WN.
That might make some sense in the ruffed grouse decline, not sure.

I will add that I am not one to believe in turkeys gobbling up grouse chicks...too many video-monitored grouse nests for that to be more than the odd snack. imho.
 

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xcsp: Interesting that nest was out in the open. I have flushed many hen turkeys through the years and they were always in heavy cover.

Some on here possibly do not buy into the turkeys are disappearing theory. I guess time will tell that story. It should worry all of us, though.
 

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Disapearing habitat, not so sure. The biggest turkey I ever saw was, standing next to N. Market, almost at the city limits of Canton. I. keep seeing the same fields, and the same woodlots year after year.
 
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