Attracting Wild Turkeys With Mast-Producing Trees and Shrubs
Mast is one of the most important food sources for wild turkeys. Whether you want to hunt turkeys or observe them, you can enhance wild turkey habitat around your home by planting a diverse mix of mast-producing trees and shrubs. A woodlot that is well managed to increase mast production is the equivalent of a permanent food plot for wild turkeys.
The most important mast-producing trees to plant for wild turkeys are oak trees. Acorn mast makes up 70% of the diet of wild turkeys in autumn. Ideally, about 50% of the trees you plant should be native oaks of several different species. The most important species for turkeys across most of their native range include White Oak (Quercus alba) and Red Oak (Quercus rubra).
Unfortunately, oaks do not produce mast as consistently as some other species of trees and shrubs, so it is important to plant a diversity of other species, including both hard and soft mast producing species to attract turkeys during poor acorn years. The best species vary from region to region; however, a few common recommendations include:
- Crabapple (Malus sp.)
- Wild cherries and plums (Prunus sp.)
- Dogwoods (Cornus sp.)
- Pine (Pinus sp.)
- American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)
- Chokeberries (Aronia)
- Viburnums (Viburnum sp.)
- Hickories (Carya sp.)
- Hawthornes (Crataegus sp.)
- Wild grape (Vitus riparia)
- Beech (Fagus sp.)
Choose a mix of trees and shrubs that provide autumn forage and those that typically keep their fruit into late winter and early spring for best results.
A stand of mast-producing trees and shrubs combines well with food plots consisting of annual grain crops such as field corn or sorghum. These food plots should be planted near roosting sites (often found in conifer or mixed conifer-hardwood stands), as turkeys do not like to travel in deep snow unless it has a hard crust. Chufa is also an excellent food source for wild turkeys, and clover provides a good source of green summer forage, as well as attracting insects, which are an especially important food source for young birds.
To learn more about managing your land for wild turkey habitat, contact the National Wild Turkey Federation, your local cooperative extension service, your local game and parks commission, or similar.