provided by John Phillips
Tad Brown of Missouri is a Mossy Oak ProStaffer and has been hunting turkeys for more than 45 years and trapping for 50 years. Turkey populations throughout many areas of the country have been in decline for several years now. Brown believes that the three main reasons may be: loss of habitat, unfavorable weather conditions and increasing predation.
“Hunting clubs, private landowners and hunters can’t stop the loss of habitat or change the weather patterns,” Brown said. “However, by helping reduce the number of predators, especially nest predators, we can influence the growth of turkey populations on the lands we hunt.”
If you decide to become a trapper, there are landowners who will pay you to remove nest predators from their properties. I have a friend who had a landowner contact him and offer to pay $100 for every coyote he took off his land. This landowner had quite a bit of property, and he managed the land exclusively for deer and turkey. One year my friend caught and killed 40 coyotes and pocketed $4,000 - not counting the price for which he sold the pelts.
When you’re talking about killing live turkeys, there is probably no more efficient predator than the bobcat. A cat is as efficient at killing live turkeys as the raccoon is at eating hens and eggs on nests. Coyotes, coons and bobcats in my opinion are the three worst turkey predators, but another one that is gaining a tremendous foothold throughout the nation is feral hogs. A feral hog will eat almost anything, and if it can find a turkey nest, it certainly will try to kill the hen and eat all the eggs.
On one of my favorite turkey places I hunt, I monitor it with trail cameras. I’ve discovered there’s a feral-hog problem in that region. I’m coordinating with a USDA hog trapper to help me get rid of them. A sounder (a large family group of hogs) will go through turkey nests like Sherman went through Georgia during the Civil War. If you have a lot of hogs on your property, they will become one of the top three threats to your local turkey population. Like some of the other predators, if a feral hog finds a newborn fawn in the spring, it will kill and eat it too.
Turkeys are not the only birds that these predators eat. Hogs will destroy any nest they find on the ground, including those of quail, pheasants and grouse. In many areas of the Midwest and especially the Southeast, quail populations have been on the decline. Much of the decline is credited to loss of and changes in habitat. But, the predators that eat the eggs of all birds that nest on the ground also have been a very limiting factor.
As land leases to hunt deer and turkey continue to become more expensive, we are seeing more and more landowners and timber companies hiring trappers to come in and remove the predators. There doesn’t seem to be a standard price of what a landowner or a lessor will pay to get these predators removed. One of the reasons that trappers are getting paid to catch and remove predators, especially in the Southeast, is because the fur has very little value. The trapper often doesn’t make enough from catching the fur bearers to offset his time and labor costs.