Wild Turkey Conservation and Oak Savanna Restoration

Since European settlement, the US has lost 99.9% of oak savannas, and wild turkeys were once eradicated from the state of Michigan. Protecting an umbrella species like turkeys helps entire local ecosystems thrive. The National Wildlife Turkey Foundation, with partners, has played an instrumental role in oak savanna restoration and the re-establishment of wild turkeys across the country.

Video Transcript

Meet Ryan: Wildlife Conservationist

Sumner, Michigan

Ryan Boyer: Yeah, so this is the call that you can use to mimic sounds of the wild turkey, some little raspier, some higher pitch. It just takes a little bit of practice, a little bit of time. Steve, if you were to put hours in terms of how long you’ve had a turkey call in your mouth…?

Steve: Oh my. Many hours. My wife didn’t want me to do it too much in the house.

The National Wild Turkey Federation works to preserve native habitats.

Ryan: One thing we really pride ourselves on is creating forest ecosystems that are imperiled and enhancing those. So if we have a greater diversity of plants, we’ll have a greater diversity of wildlife species. And that’s one of our ultimate goals.

Protecting umbrella species like turkeys helps entire local ecosystems.

[Demonstrate calls of a hen (female turkey)]

Ryan: Try and find the one that’s the most densely packed… Don’t know if it really has much to do with it or not. It’s just an old superstition. Solid.

Steve: We’re going around?

Ryan: Yes sir.

Steve: Lead the way, my man.

Ryan: All right. Follow me.

One of the best things about hunting is being able to step back and be able to look at God’s creation and be able to enjoy that. Each day is so unique. Each opportunity you have to be able to spend time in the woods — the things that you get to see, the people that you get to experience those experiences with — truly, it’s a remarkable thing. It’s something that I wish more folks had the opportunity to be able to experience.

The U.S. loses 2 million acres of wildlife habitat every year. Native Americans once managed this land to support wildlife.

You don’t hear a lot of information about oak savannas or the management of it, but we’ve lost 99.9% of savannas that were here prior to European settlement. Oak savanna habitats are a remarkable habitat type and ecosystem that a number of species rely on. 

[Shows various plant species existing in the oak savanna habitat: white oak, horsemint, big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, sweet fern, bracken fern, sassafras, wild blueberry]

When you take a few trees out, it opens up the canopy so it allows more sunlight to get to that forest floor. And then what you get then is a regeneration of native grasses and wildflowers, and a number of other critters just love these types of habitats. 

[Shows coniferous forest (unmanaged) versus oak savannah (managed)]

That’s why we’re placing a great focus on it, and it also makes remarkable wild turkey habitat. So we’ve got a dropping there. Yep, it looks like a cheese puff.

[Demonstrate turkey calls of a gobbler (male turkey)]

Wild turkeys were once eradicated from Michigan.

Ryan: Can’t shoot at it.

That was impromptu, just nerves right now. Right at the edge of what I felt comfortable and a little more atypical than an ordinary fall hunt, but it presented me with a clean shot, an opportunity to harvest a beautiful bird.

We all have an empathy towards the wildlife and the animals that we pursue — after a harvest, to be able to take some time to myself and give thanks where thanks are due.

[Demonstrate various animal calls: drake mallard, crow, cow moose, barn owl]

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