Tuesday, June 23, 2015



Wild turkey restoration…this Missouri Conservation Commission employee and the farmers with him are the reason we have wild turkey today.  THEY stocked wild turkey on public and private lands that had been captured with cannon nets.  THEY brought back the wild turkey and deer, many decades ago, and likely all three are very old now, or passed away. Today's MDC has nothing to do with the comeback of turkey and deer.

        There was a break in the rain a week or so ago, ten minutes after eight in the evening just before dark. And there he was, just like you would see him on some April morning, all puffed up, strutting before a hen. The old wild gobbler and his passion was no fluke, there have been many continuing to mate in mid-June, and some will be mating in July as well. Mating goes on all summer, as does the gobbling. You can hear wild turkeys gobbling any time of the year, any time of day, sometimes in the dead of winter, sometimes in the heat of summer.

       Thank goodness for that, as few hatching poults, would have survived those heavy rains and storms that plastered the Ozarks and areas around us this spring. A young turkey or quail does not have the feathers to repel the rain.  Even if it is 90 degrees, if those young birds get wet, their body can’t maintain a survivable temperature.  Heavy rain kills the young of most any kind of ground-nesting birds.

       It is possible, but not likely to happen often, that a turkey hen will bring off another brood in late summer if her spring poults all die.  Quail often do that even if their chicks survive.  Will woodcock or whippoorwills or other ground nesters do that?  I suspect so but I don’t know, and no one else really knows for sure.

       I’ve written about how many nests are destroyed by the plague of armadillos we have, and make no mistake about it, armadillos and wild hogs have, indeed  become a plague.

       I have a good friend, Michael Widner, who was the wild turkey biologist for Arkansas for quite some time and he talked often about how some wild turkey hens would mate again in late summer and perhaps hatch a full nest of eggs because their spring nests had been found, the eggs eaten.  He said his work with radio transmitter birds in Arkansas’ Ouachita mountains, showed that in one area only three of eight hens nested in April or May.

       We will not have a good hatch of wild turkeys this year and you can take that to the bank, but there will be some poults hatched from now through most of August that will help ensure young turkeys in October.  Hunters in October very often will kill young turkeys that do not weigh ten pounds.

       When they hatch in August, survival into the winter is an iffy thing because early cold and heavy predation is tough for those smaller turkeys to contend with.  I have been there, and I have seen it.  When you are in the woods in October you come across the kills made by great horned owls. The big predatorial birds are hell on those young turkeys roosting together at night.

       We will hope for the best but if we do not kill a mature hen this fall it may help some. Some parts of Missouri and almost all of Kansas has an overabundance of wild turkeys and if you are in such an area, you aren’t apt to worry much.  But there are other parts of our state, and certainly in north Arkansas, where turkey numbers are poor in comparison.  In such places, pass up mature hens this fall.

              I don’t often go to the city, but I was in St.Louis in late winter, visiting the Schwartz Taxidermy Studio, an unbelievable wildlife museum I recommend you see. A worker was attending to their heating system and he told me he didn’t approve of my criticism of the Missouri Department of Conservation.  He made the bold statement, “They’ve done a good job of bringing back the deer and turkey.”

       I asked him if he had ever seen the public-owned wildlife areas we all have paid for, which they ‘manage’ by destroying wildlife habitat for money derived from board feet of lumber or ‘yield per acre’.   Of course he hadn’t.  His only defense of them came from what he read in their magazine, a publication which costs millions and is paid for by the money Missouri citizens give them.
       I hear this argument often…  ‘They brought back the deer and turkey’.  It irritates me coming from those who have so little knowledge of what is happening and I said as much to him. “I knew many of the people who brought back the deer and turkey through restocking, protection and work with landowners,” I told him.  “They are all retired and very old, and most have passed away. If you think our modern day biologists and the bureaucracy in Jefferson City have anything to do with the wild turkey and deer populations in our state today you are badly mistaken.”
       If the MDC went out of existence today, there would be no change in the number of white-tail deer in this state as long as hunters would impose seasons and limits on themselves as most of us do now. And 90 percent would.  Poaching would not be much greater than it already is!!!
       Where landowners want there to be deer and turkey, there will be deer and turkey, and where they do not, there will still be a few.  The term “deer management and turkey management” is only talk now and the attitude of men like that one in St.Louis is something of an insult to the hard-working conservationists who actually DID bring back the deer and turkey 50 some years ago.  They did it by working long hours with little money for an agency called, “The Missouri Conservation Commission”, a different organization entirely than the “Missouri Department of Conservation” we have today.
       I knew many of them and, as a whole, they were a different breed than you see in their places today.  I hesitate to point that out because there are some good people who work today for Midwest state conservation agencies in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas Oklahoma and Arkansas who are as honest, devoted and knowledgeable as any ever have been, dedicated to “wise use” of our lands, resources and wildlife.  But they are dwindling in number.  Fifty years ago they weren’t the exception, they were the norm.

       Only widespread poultry diseases, a continuing increase in predation, or indifference by landowners and hunters will hurt the wild turkey populations now.  There is no wild turkey “management”.  Such talk is silliness, but works well with those who have no idea what is going on.

       If you doubt what I say, research for yourself the last big turkey project MDC’s top turkey biologist was involved it.  He called that the “gobbleteers project”.
       Deer may someday become way too populated.  Right now their numbers are controlled mostly by blue-tongue disease in late summer and the annual harvest by hunters.  When the mad-deer disease, or ‘chronic wasting’ spreads to a hundred counties instead of the six counties where it is found today in north Missouri, hunter numbers may actually drop, and in some pockets, deer will be too numerous.

       This state does not have a “deer herd” which you so often hear the MDC officials speak of.  We have many regional and area herds and they range from too few to too many depending on where you are.  Deer numbers found around and in our cities could be used to restock the whole state if need be because they are thriving and over-populated.

       As for the protection division, statewide enforcement carried out by today’s conservation agents does this and it does that… but those enforcement personnel and their work does nothing to impact the number of deer and turkey we have.  ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!

       Like that man in St. Louis, you may just believe one side of everything, but think hard about what I just said.  Having wild places and wild creatures may someday depend on common sense people knowing the truth and standing up against those wildlife and forestry agencies who have so many citizens brainwashed.
       Look hard for the truth, or the future of wild things and places may be in jeopardy.   And I am NOT speaking of wild turkey and deer!  They will be here a long time regardless of what we do.  You can see that by looking inside those suburbs, where both are numerous and growing.  And that has nothing to do with “deer management”.
       The summer issue of the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, will be out this week.   Contact us for information on how to find it or subscribe at Box 22  Bolivar, Mo.65613. Email me at lightninridge@windstream.net. You can call our office at 417 777 5227.

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