Scientific data has found that ideal Wild Turkey habitat in Michigan is 20-30percent bottomland hardwoods, 10-30 percent mature oaks, 5-10 percent conifers, 10-15 percent shrubs, 20-30 percent croplands and 15-25 percent grasslands, clover pastures or idled fields.
The Michigan DNR also adds: Trees, shrubs and grass in close proximity to each other are key ingredients of good turkey habitat Mast producing trees such as oaks and beeches are especially important. Fruit producing shrubs offer spring nesting cover and important fall and winter food. Grassy openings supply an abundance of insects, seeds and other foods for adults and especially for poults. “Ideally, trees and grass should occur fairly close together because a turkey’s home range is roughly 2 square miles. How these components are arranged on the landscape significantly affects an area’s suitability for turkeys and the number of birds it can support.”
Over the past 11 years we have reported on the lack of Wild Turkey management on those 3.9 million acres of state forests that we own. Between our organization and the Michigan Conservation Foundation we have examined just about every compartment within our state forests in the northern lower peninsula. Very few compartments meet even minimum habitat necessary to sustain those various game birds and animals that we hunt, along with many non game species.
In the last issue of Turkey Tracks we reported on the proposed purchase of 5 acres if tax reverted land in Benzie County for $32,400 from the restricted state Turkey Fund. A letter was sent to the Natural Resources Commission asking that they reject the purchase using this fund. As is typical no reply was received.
Listed in the December 6 agenda for the Natural Resources Commission meeting was the proposed purchase of 16.67 acres for $120,000 at the Middleville State Game Area in Barry County. The parcel exhibits a level to gently rolling topography with approximately 850 feet of undeveloped frontage along Black Lake. The DNR recommendation is to approve the purchase with $60,000 to be made from funds appropriated for Turkey Habitat Acquisition.
Should the DNR make this purchase? Sure. Should our Turkey Fund be used? No! Whether or not the hunters paying into this fund object to this use of the fund is immaterial, for it surely will go forward.
Something is terribly wrong with the system. Regardless of the rhetoric to the contrary, creating and maintaining habitat on state forest lands is a non priority among top DNR managers. At a time when field personnel can not obtain the necessary equipment and supplies to provide even minimum habitat because of a supposed lack of funds there seems to be no lack of money in the Turkey Fund to buy inflated property and lake frontage. On the other hand I suppose a turkey has to take a drink once in a while.