Planting Tips to Make Turkeys Come to You

DEER GET ALL the land-management press, but turkeys benefit from it, too. Provide plenty to eat and drink and good places to nest, to elude predators, and to shelter from storms and cold winds, and you'll attract and keep birds on your land. This month and next, we'll lay out eight habitat improvement projects. To create your very own turkey paradise, examine your property to determine what's missing. Then pick among our projects to fill your needs. And get cracking. Before you know it, you'll have more turkeys, and better hunting.

PLANT: CHUFA

BENEFIT: This annual, reseeding sedge produces sweet tubers that turkeys relish.

DIRECTIONS: Kill existing vegetation with Roundup. Till the ground well and broadcast 30 to 50 pounds of chufa seed per acre. Cover the seed 1 inch deep with a disc or tiller, and fertilize with 10-10-10. Though some chufa may regenerate, replanting it annually will ensure a full crop. Rotate to a new field every three or four years.

TOOLS REQUIRED: Tractor or ATV with tiller or disc; seed broadcaster.

COST: $150 per acre for seed and fertilizer.

TIME TO COMPLETE: Six to 10 hours.

TIME UNTIL RESULTS: Ninety days.

CREATE: A FIELD BORDER

BENEFIT: Open areas are more attractive to gobblers if there's a brushy transition corridor flanking them.

DIRECTIONS: Borders should be about 25 feet wide. The easiest way to create one is to simply stop mowing a strip along the field edge. In time, weeds, brush, and saplings will grow up. A faster method is to cut back mature timber, leaving a few mast trees along with some treetops, saplings, and shrubs.

TOOLS REQUIRED: None, or a chain saw.

COST: From nothing to a few bucks for gas.

TIME TO COMPLETE: Zero to six hours.

TIME UNTIL RESULTS: One month to two years.

PLANT: FRUIT AND PINE TREES

BENEFIT: Turkeys love to eat apples, pears, plums, persimmons, and crab apples. Clusters of pines provide ideal shelter from storms.

DIRECTIONS: Set out fruit trees in natural clearings in forests or fields. Wire barriers or tree shields will protect them from deer and rabbits. Plant 50 to 100 white pine seedlings in clusters, spacing individual trees 10 to 12 feet apart in areas protected from the wind.

TOOLS REQUIRED: Shovel or tree-planting bar.

COST: $100 for 50 young fruit trees; $100 for 100 pine trees.

TIME TO COMPLETE: Four to six hours.

TIME UNTIL RESULTS: Two to five years.

CREATE: A POND

BENEFIT: In dry times, and especially in dry habitats, drinking water is crucial for turkeys. If the birds can't find it at your place, they'll head straight for the next property.

DIRECTIONS: Find a low basin that drains a fairly large area and dig a ¼- to 1-acre pond. You can also locate a good spot on a wet-weather stream and build a dam. Hiring a contractor, however, is often the best idea. Be sure to get required permits. A ¼-acre pond is big enough if it holds water year-round.

TOOLS REQUIRED: Bulldozer.

COST: $500 to $5,000.

TIME TO COMPLETE: One to five days.

TIME UNTIL RESULTS: One to six months.