Steve Hickoff is the Realtree Turkey Hunting Editor and Blogger. He’s been beaten by more birds than he can remember. Still he kills enough to eat well, and fool with beards, spurs and fans until the next season. Pennsylvania born and raised, Maine is his home base now. A full-time outdoor communicator with a couple university writing degrees, he chases spring gobblers and fall flocks around the country. It's "all turkeys, all the time" on the Realtree Turkey Blog.
Wild Turkey Nest Made with Bones
A wild turkey nest made with bones? Yep, you heard right. We saw this Nebraska wild turkey nest in mid April: one speckled egg sitting with some bones. It's the kind of cool stuff you see out there between the calling and the kills.
As a hunting writer, I’m fortunate talk with and hear from the country’s top turkey biologists on a regular basis. Some wild turkey facts might surprise you. I asked one biologist about the egg with bones. He speculated it may have had something to do with wild turkey hens needing calcium during nesting. Maybe it was a young hen figuring the deal out. He wasn't completely sure . . .
I’ve learned plenty from other biologists too. For one, not all hens nest. Hatches in specific geographical regions don’t come off at the same time either. In general, wild turkeys hatch in May and June down south, and June and July up north in wild turkey nesting habitat, with regional exceptions. In northern New England I saw and received numerous reports on late May hatches. On May 19, while hunting New Hampshire’s Connecticut River Valley, I called in a brood hen with poults.
Why the variation of so-called "early" and later wild turkey hatches? Vermont biologist Doug Blodgett once told me that’s to ensure turkeys in a region (around the country) have the potential for flock production with sometimes challenging weather conditions and other factors. This goes for older and younger hens.
You mean there’s a difference? Yep. Young hens don’t always nest their first year. There’s a reason for this. On average, studies show yearlings begin nesting later in the season than adult hens. If unsuccessful, they finish re-nesting attempts sooner. Re-nesting attempts can number four or five times; at least according to renowned Florida turkey biologist Lovett E. Williams, Jr.
This one definitely surprised me when I first heard it. Once sure, but five times? Wow. Re-nesting efforts conclude by midsummer in the south, and late summer up north. I’ve personally seen nesting Maine hens in July many times. Once, I accidentally disturbed an August nester in the middle of a field of high grass. A week later I found her there dead, the victim of a predator kill if the scattered feathers were any indicator. Coyote scat sat nearby.
What’s the earliest you've seen brood hens with poults this year and in what state? Ever find a wild turkey nest built with bones? Any guess as to what kind of bones are in the nest photo I provided here? Let us know in the comments section below and thanks.