Wild turkey are literally strange birds, but they do respond readily to food plots. In fact, most of the winter food plots planted for white-tailed deer will attract turkeys too. The primary reason most hunters want food plots for turkey is to increase sightings. If you already have some turkey in your area, then planting a high quality food source will likely increase sightings and provide additional opportunities for harvest.
Turkeys respond to habitat management and love woodlands that converge with areas comprised low successional plant species. A good food plot with some forest edge will keep turkeys close to your property. Though natural turkey foods are usually in good supply, quality food plots will readily attract these birds. Food plots for wild turkey should range from one-half to two acres in size and should be long and narrow in shape. This is ideal.
In addition, mature woodlands should be close by your food plot. Turkeys will use the timber for roosting and foraging, and visit food plots for supplemental foraging. Hunters can expect heavy use of food plots during the late winter after the acorn crop disappears and turkey begin looking for something green to eat. In addition, toms will use the areas cleared for food plots as strutting and gobbling areas in the spring.
Wheat, oats, annual rye grass and ladino clover planted in the fall as winter food plots provide early spring attraction for seed forming on these crops and emerging insects. When air temperatures rise, food plots usually become filled with a variety of bugs. They usually harbor an abundance of insects and other invertebrates that are important components in the diet of turkey poults from early to mid-summer. Yet another reason plots can help turkey populations in your area.
Oats and wheat are valuable food sources for many species of wildlife and turkeys love them. In fact, most grain plots commonly planted for deer and doves are also excellent choices for turkeys. However, whenever turkeys and quail are a primary consideration, wheat should be considered over oats in food plot mixes. This is because white-tailed deer prefer oats and will not let it go seed, whereas wheat is not as readily eaten.
Chufa, which by the way is a variety of yellow nutsedge, is another
popular planting for turkeys during the spring and early summer. Turkeys feed upon the nut-like tubers produced among the roots of chufa. Chufa grows best in food plots planted in sandy to sandy loam soils because turkeys cannot feed upon the tubers unless they can scratch down into the soil far enough to turn up the roots.
In closing, food plots implemented as part of an overall turkey management plan may fill a nutritional gap, even on properties with good turkey habitat. A food plot for turkeys may help provide a year-round, sustainable food source by working in concert with native plants. Additionally, plots can provide cover as well as food. Turkeys and quail may lack adequate nesting and escape cover that can be provided with the right plantings, such as native warm-season grasses. Maintain good habitat, use food plots and practice harvest management for the benefit of turkey populations in your area.