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Conservation-Birds of a Feather Flock together By: Nick Buseman, Grundy County Conservation Operation Supervisor

February 21, 2019
Reinbeck Courier
Gathering up trail cameras from this past fall and winter deer season. Scouring through thousands of pictures, and reflecting back on these past hunting seasons, I wrangled a couple of interesting points from the fall. One, the many hours I spent perched in a tree or in a ground blind. Another, how our pheasant numbers are rebounding. Lastly, and perhaps most strangely, how turkeys travel in same sex flocks. Studying lots of pictures and recalling from memory, I noticed that you don’t ever see hens and toms in the same winter flock. Upon researching more I found this to be true. If you see a flock of hen turkeys in a crop field picking for a meal there’s a good chance they are related. Hen flocks are made up of adult hen turkeys and their female offspring. In some cases there might be a couple adult hens with their female offspring resulting in 50+ birds. If you have ever noticed a flock of six or eight male turkeys (toms) in a snow covered pasture, they seem to be all carrying the same length of beard. In a lot of cases, if the numbers are adequate, male turkeys will flock in groups of the same age class during the late fall and winter months. So, mature toms will flock together and immature males or jakes will flock together during the colder months. I witnessed this on several hunts this fall and scouring through trail camera photos confirmed this. I remember one evening when I had 12 mature long beards feeding in my food plot just ten yards away. Every bird was sporting a large rope of a beard and inch plus spurs. I am pretty sure this flock was a flock of 3+ year old birds. I remember thinking, if only it was spring turkey season. Throughout the winter these flocks will stay together and rarely will they interact with a different flock. Often times these flocks will take up stake in different timbers where cover and food allows. I personally have a property that holds birds in the winter months, and gets your hopes up for spring turkey season, only to find that they have moved to a different farm for spring mating season. Once the weather and season changes to spring, the birds move into breeding season. That group of companions that fed and roasted together all winter now become rivals competing for a hen turkey to be its mate in the spring. Friends turned foes. So when it comes to wild turkeys in late fall and winter, remember birds of a feather flock together.


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