Winter Kill Off: how tough is the eastern turkey?

Written by Big Game Camera Man on Saturday, February 7, 2015

Winter Kill Off: how tough is the eastern turkey?

Although winter die-off is common for many critters in North America, wild turkeys are masters of survival.  Their lifelong focus seems to be searching for food and keeping their bodies and feathers in good working order.  Those obsessions serve them well in winter's freezing temperatures and deep snow.   In recent years, turkeys have moved into cold-winter areas like Maine, Vermont and Ontario, Canada.  Each spring, there are reports from those areas that the turkeys are thriving.

When snow gets very deep, turkeys will stay on their roosts for days—almost a week in some cases I've witnessed.  A turkey that gets into deep, soft snow is in trouble—it can't get its flight feathers clear to fly back onto the roost.  The birds stay in large flocks, seeking safety in numbers during winter.  They move around the roost site in the trees, feeding on buds.  They can slow their metabolism to help them survive on stored fat.  They seek shelter from high winds and blowing snow in the dense foliage of hemlocks and pines. They try to choose roosting spots on the south sides of ridges, etc., and to sun themselves in midday, when possible.  

Once they discover that the snow has crusted over enough to support their weight, the turkeys come off the roost..  You can see flocks moving around on plowed driveways and roads in search of food, or muscling their way past smaller birds to bird feeders maintained by kindhearted homeowners.  

All in all, recent winters have been very stressful for wild turkeys.  A small percentage may die off during these difficult months, but most will come through in good shape.  Winter soon will be winding down, and sportsmen can look forward to hearing the echo of that hard gobbling, king-of-the-hill spring turkey.

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I’ve been in the business of filming hunts for 24 years now. I have hundreds of hours of...

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