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Turkey Habitat Management

Prescribed Fire

Create Wild Turkey Habitat at Home

In spring and fall, hunters travel across the state for the chance to bag a wild turkey. But, if you have the time and space, you might be able to save yourself a trip by creating habitat for wild turkey on your own property.

Wild turkeys are considered habitat generalists, which means they use several different types of habitats or cover, including forests, agricultural landscapes with scattered woodlots, grasslands, and brushy areas. If there is proper nesting cover, brood-rearing habitat, and roosting sites, turkeys can thrive.

Wild turkeys nest on the ground, usually in low vegetation or brushy areas. Planting native grasses and wildflowers, leaving downed trees and branches, and establishing unmown areas and briar thickets will provide good nesting habitat.

Once poults have hatched, they need open areas with diverse plant cover, an abundance of insects, and nearby escape cover. Trees and shrubs that produce acorns, nuts or fruit (i.e., mast) such as oaks, hickories, elderberry, blackberry, and dogwoods should be planted or maintained to provide future food sources. In the shorter term, establish clover, alfalfa, and grain food plots to provide supplemental food sources.

To create the areas poults use for travel, strip-disk, mow, or use prescribed fires. You can also remove non-mast producing trees to open the tree canopy and allow sunlight to reach the ground. Doing so will encourage the establishment of grasses, wildflowers, and small shrubs that poults rely on for food and cover.

The last aspect turkeys need is trees to roost in at night. Turkeys prefer mature hardwoods and open-crowned trees with a trunk diameter 14 inches or greater and horizontal limbs. Conifers should also be present because they provide more protection during the winter and inclement weather.

All habitat-improvement projects should be completed outside of the nesting and brood-rearing timeframe of April through July to ensure turkeys can successfully nest and raise their poults.

To discuss your management priorities and how to manage your property for wild turkeys, contact your district wildlife biologist or visit