Project Turkey: Turn Your Land into Gobbler Haven

Decide which projects are most critical on your property, then get to it. Your hard work will pay off in great gobbler hunting for years to come.

Illustration by John Rice

These four projects will help turn you land into a turkey paradise. Decide which ones are most critical on your property, then get to it. Your hard work will pay off in great gobbler hunting for years to come.

1) Thin the Timber

Benefit: Heavily thinning or clear-cutting a few small, irregular-shaped parcels of 1⁄2 to 2 acres provides turkeys with the new growth and diverse edge habitat they need to thrive.
Directions: Fell low-value trees if you're thinning. Need help deciding where to clear-cut? Turn to your state's forestry department. You can also hire a logger or firewood cutter. Leave treetops and brushpiles, which make great nesting habitat for hens.
Tools Required: Chainsaw.
Cost: You may make money from selling the wood you cut.
Time to Complete: Twelve to 24 hours.
Time Until Results: One to two years.

2) Plant Clover, Grains, and Grasses

Benefit: A variety of nutrition sources that produce during different seasons (like those available in turkey-specific wildlife seed mixes) keeps birds on your property year-round.
Directions: Plant small food plots in fire lanes, logging roads, or natural clearings. Till or disc the ground, or simply rake away the leaves and debris. Then broadcast seed, adding lime plus a 5-10-10 or similar fertilizer. Cover lightly with your disc or tiller. Another option is to drive over the seed with an ATV or tractor.
Tools Required: Tractor or ATV with tiller or disc.
Cost: About $100 for seed.
Time to Complete: Four hours.
Time Until Results: One to three months.

3) Create Grape Arbors

Benefit: Turkeys love grapes, and the fruits cling to vines well into winter, ­providing a prime source of soft mast when pickings are otherwise slim.
Directions: Once you've located any wild grapes growing on your property, cut back whatever thick brush might be shielding the plants from sunlight. Then saw down two or three nearby low-value trees so they fall into the one the grapevine is growing on. This will create a tepee effect, allowing the vine to expand its growth and produce more fruit.
Tools Required: Chain saw.
Cost: $0.
Time to Complete: One hour.
Time Until Results: Four months.

4) Disc a Field

Benefit: Discing allows native weeds to take root. These plants often provide better foraging areas for hens and their young than the fescue grass typically found in old fields.
Directions: Select part of an old pasture or fallow field. Disc a 30-foot-wide strip, skip a section twice as wide, then disc another. Do this in different sections of the same field in consecutive years to produce strips in varying stages of succession, but retill each strip every three years to start the process anew.
Tools Required: ATV or tractor with disc.
Cost: $5 to $10 for gas.
Time to Complete: One hour.
Time Until Results: Two months.