Fake News – Turkeys

Posted on May 2, 2017



There are though, strangely enough, stupid turkeys…Some of them, like a great many men you may have met, have a tendency to open their mouths too much. And, as with younger men, the younger turkeys sin principally in this respect. – Tom Kelly

It seems, much like in our political climate, when it comes to turkeys, people either are fascinated with them or they hate them, there is no middle ground. Risking the ire of those on the other side of the turkey isle, I am, with this post going to Make Turkeys Great Again, or at least reveal the misinformation that is often trumpeted by the mainstream, drive-by turkey dis-likers.

Turkeys compete with whitetails for same groceries.

The outcry from those opposing turkeys is that they eat much of the same things deer feast on and due to their large numbers, are eating the deer out of house and home. Well, that is partially ‘fake news.’ While it is true that both turkeys and whitetails eat acorns, beechnuts, and apple tree buds, there are many other food stores that are turkey specific. And by the way, squirrels – both gray and red – along with chipmunks, eat all the varieties of fallen fall fruit as well, and I don’t hear any outcry about those rodents stealing the whitetail’s food.

During late spring through early autumn, a large portion of a turkey’s diet consists of bugs and wild fruit, which last time I checked, is not currently on the diet plan of any deer I know. One more tipping point favorable for the bird, turkeys fly up and roost in trees all night, which means they, unlike deer do not eat while it is dark.

Turkeys are everywhere

Woods rats; nuisances; noisy; messy; everywhere; these are just some of the words and phrases people use to describe their thoughts on these birds. But, as is the case with most reactions based upon perception and not reality, dramatic hyperbole is used to reinforce what they want communicated and believed.

Seldom are turkeys evenly distributed over the landscape, and often they indeed travel collectively, which is why they are called a flock. As is the case with all living creatures both great and small, furred or feathered, they all move to the hunger of their bellies. When food is scarce as in winter through early spring, birds congregate where they can get a ‘free lunch.’ These providential food pantries are farms where silage and overflow provide easily obtained meals. Backyard bird feeders and winter feeding stations for deer also draw in the flocks. Drive down the road five miles from these places and you find no evidence of the species of bird even existing. Go try to find a wild gobbler come July. Go ahead, I challenge you to locate one. It’s as if the entire male race of turkeys have left the planet during the summer months.

Turkeys eat all farmers crops

If that were true there would either be no more turkeys or plenty of farmers would be out of business. After all, we are not dealing with locusts here. Many wild animals help themselves to farmer’s crops, and yes, at times they can, with increased abundance become a nuisance with crop depravation as the result.

Prolific numbers equal ease in hunting

If you have the illusion that because there are many turkeys and it has become more usual than not to see them right off the roadway that it is going to be simple to bag one during hunting season, you may want to rethink that notion. As Tom Kelly rightly states: “You are going to find that you have to work at it, and you are going to have to work at it over a long period of time.”

Dumb Bird

Although turkeys may at times display some pretty dumb tendencies, they are far from stupid when it comes to preserving their tailfeathers. Admittedly, they have brains the size of walnuts, but don’t think size determines savvy; these birds make more right decisions than they do wrong ones. Their eyesight is uniquely acute and despite not having actual ears, they can pinpoint the exact location of a call as well.

Turkeys can’t be hunted past noon

It was believed for quite some time that if you allowed hunters to pursue birds beyond noon, the risk of disturbing nesting hens would increase. Thankfully, that science has been disproved and many states now allow hunting all day.

Old limb hangers are the boss birds

It is a given that most, if not all turkey hunters aspire to shoot long, thick paint brush bearded gobblers with spurs beyond 1 ½ inches, and yes, it is a feat to actually hang your hat on. But the age of the bird seldom grants him top spot in the pecking order. Typically, the older a bird gets the less he hangs with other males. A pair of two-year-olds who are feeling their machismo can exert dominance over a lone bird twice their age. And the same holds true when an older bird is facing 4-to-6 Jakes; they are merciless in their physical attacks. It has been my experience that once a Tom goes past his third year his ability to ‘rule the roost’ becomes diminished exponentially.


With the increase in turkey flocks, tick populations will explode, right? Not true. In fact, it is just the opposite. Wherever turkeys spend most of their time the tick population actually is reduced significantly. Do the birds repel them? Nope, they eat them along with a whole menu full of other insects. So, if you have turkeys frequenting your backyard, consider it a good thing as the tick population will be non-existent.

Setting the record straight

While there will always be intellectual dishonesty or incorrect perceptions derived through ignorance, arrogance or spite, but when it comes to Americas greatest game bird, Tom Kelly states, “…native suspicion will not let me accept the statement that a man has reached the highest plateau of turkey hunting upon his unsupported word. For this is a serious thing, and men who are often trustworthy in unimportant matters…are sometimes unreliable when it comes to turkeys.”


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