Managing Nest Predators Means Better Turkey Hunting

Watch a brazen coyote challenge Melissa Bachman's bird, and learn how one state is helping to protect turkey populations from nest predators.

posted on March 25, 2024

As people head out to the woods this spring, one thing they may notice is the number of states that have cut back turkey tags due to declining populations. Although there may be a variety of reasons for the decline, one thing that can help is controlling the nest predators. So what is that? Well, think about any predators in your area that will raid nests and eat the eggs. For us in South Dakota that’s opossums, raccoons, bobcats, skunks, coyotes and foxes. Unfortunately, fur prices have been on the decline for years, and that has taken a toll on the number of people trapping. Without the trappers the nest predators can quickly get out of hand, with turkeys and pheasants taking a direct hit.

In South Dakota they implemented a Nest Predator Bounty Program to help protect our populations. It set record numbers for youth participation. In fact, the 2023 program composed of 46 percent of the total participants were under the age of 18. Not only is this great news for our bird populations, but such a great program to get youth and families outdoors together. They also gave out one free live trap to each youth when submitting their tails for the first timid, which in turn gave out 1,014 live traps across South Dakota. They opened the program for South Dakota residents under 18 on March 1, then opened it up to all South Dakota residents on April 1. They capped it at 50,000 tails, which was reached on June 29. They actually received 50,552 total tails submitted by 2,481 participants. Read more about this program here

Not only does this make me so happy to see our state teaching people the art of trapping, but it’s such an amazing program to keep our state pheasant and turkey populations in good conditions. Even if you live in a state that doesn’t offer a bounty program, getting out and learning to trap is not only fun but it can really help produce noticeable results on your property and in your area. Better yet if you can get some neighbors to join in and cover a larger area you can achieve even greater results.

If you’re a landowner without the time to keep your nest predators at bay, or maybe you lack the skills or gear, there are other options. Our local 4H group has been sending out letters asking for permission to trap on people’s property. This is a win-win for both, as they need places to learn, and there are many landowners who are thrilled with having someone do the trapping without having to pay. If this isn’t an option in your area you can hire a trapper or even call the state and ask if there are state trappers in the area that could help out on your property. In the end, regardless of fur prices predators need to be managed to maintain a healthy population. This is a something incredibly important that people often forget about.

You can also keep this in mind while you’re turkey hunting. Always check your local rules and regulations for shooting predators, but I like to use a 12-gauge Winchester Long Beard XR 3 ½” 5 shot just in case something comes into my decoy set. This load does a number on turkeys but can also take down a predator that comes busting into your set. I’ve had both a coyote and bobcat come after a turkey as we were calling them in so they have no issue trying to take down a full-sized bird as well!

Check out this video to watch a brazen coyote challenge Melissa Bachman's bird!




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