Rural System's

The Wild Turkey Group

Like The Deer Group, The Wild Turkey Group represents a radical departure in wildlife and game management in North America and an innovation in wildland management. First described by Giles in a wild turkey conference in 1981, the concept of the wild turkey enterprise, one among many, has been taught, discussed, and improved. The concept is one of intensive, single-species management. Acknowledging the role of the state agencies in restoring the wild turkey, the proposed enterprise is not in opposition to but a test of the alternative to state and federal programs that emphasize multiple-use, ecosystem management, and general upland game management.

As an alternative, it responds to:

  1. lack of awareness of the numbers and importance and interest in the wild turkey
  2. lack of knowledge about where to turn for management on private lands
  3. unresponsiveness of agencies to requests for action (limited staff, limited budgets, conflicting policies, and competitive programs)
  4. concern over high program costs (with no insight about financial returns)
  5. fragmented efforts
  6. and agency inability to resolve the policy issue of extensive projects of localized intensive action.

Collectively, past public agency problems have not worked as well as they might on behalf of the wild turkey or of the resource users.

The Wild Turkey Group denies that all animals are mere 'wildlife' and subject to the same generalizations. It demands superior managerial skills and knowledge and uses them, not merely collects them. From one perspective, the Group is a large agribusiness management firm. It manages land for profits related to the "crop," defined as human benefits associated with the bird. The human benefits are diverse and many (such as those associated with the hunting complex of the 12,000 birds harvested in Virginia in the 2001 season), and likely to be increased by management.

The approach and the actions of the Group are as follows. They will be developed cautiously but rapidly to achieve a diverse, sustainable enterprise that brings a diverse clientele to lands of the region, assures stable use in the hunting season as well as other times, and operates a consulting and service group to assist land owners in achieving positive gains from their land and wild turkey resource.

The actions include:
1. Offering voluntary memberships for individuals and corporations.
2. Promoting a systems approach to single-species management for maximum benefits over time
3. Providing forest and wildland taxation advice
4. Providing improved forest land value assessment for long-term valuation and land and water banking
5. Providing advice on agro-energy land use incentives
6. Providing income from lands usually idle that can at least pay real estate taxes
7. Providing access to a foundation or relating to an educational and research group that provides tax incentives for progressive investment in the natural resource
8. Developing publications and media related to the wild turkey
9. Providing a scoring service, partially for public relations purposes, partially as a means for corporate officers to evaluate progress being made on their lands.

For example, a score might be reported: "The corporation lands were certified by The Wild Turkey Group to have a score of 76." The corporation might boast of such a score, show progress, and show scores relative to competitors. Such scores may have importance in certain corporate values and in real estate sales. A new development on the land may increase or decrease such a score and thus the score may have public relations and marketing values.

10. Providing convenient, highly-effective methods for assessing environmental effects of proposed corporation changes, on or off corporation lands
11. Promoting competition between corporations in wild turkey management. Use of the above score may be a major part of the competition
12. Providing full-service fee hunting on corporate or other lands. These include centralized services, high efficiency, impartial administration, experienced procedures, maximum safety and security, improved hunt quality, and financial returns to the company from their lands
13. Conducting special shows, workshops, and educational events, at cost, for Rural System, Inc. on their lands to communicate to workers, unions, citizens, etc. the program, the progress, and related land management interests
14. Arranging for special advertising of corporate wild turkey work to assure maximum public relations benefits from investments in the resource
15. Forming cooperatives, combinations of adjacent lands, allowing large-area management, improved hunting opportunities, desired habitat interspersion, and significant economies of scale in labor, supplies, software, and contractual services
16. Providing uniform modern law enforcement service and trespass and vandalism deterrence (The Safety and Security Group)
17. Creating a highly competitive national program for the Stalker. Individuals purchase applications and materials and begin an arduous educational, hunting, wildlife knowledge, safety, and 'appropriate wildland behavior' course. Hunters and others may achieve various levels of success, the latter of which permit hunting and observation privileges on scores corporate lands and special areas at reduced cost (some reserved exclusively for Stalkers X). The program includes opportunities for youths
18. Presenting successes in areas other than the turkey. Clearly turkey-oriented, the program benefits songbirds, reduces erosion, protects stream banks, and improves conditions for several other kinds of wild animals and plants. Corporations or landowners can use these reports in various ways
19. Seeking creation of a multi-state turkey hunter's license
20. Providing ornithology groups tours (at cost) (Nature Folks) so that some members may add the bird to their life list
21. Operating several major hunting lodges that enable significant, high-quality hunting to be experienced by executives and special friends of the Group and the cooperating landowners
22. Providing prescribed burning and wild fire management services
23. Providing detailed turkey management plans for each area including dynamic plans at a web site
24. Providing special users' and hunters' insurance.

Interest in the wild turkey has grown and the populations have also grown. The growth may be correlated. Hunting opportunities have been sold. In 1983 turkey hunting lease costs were: Alabama $0.35 to $4.00 per acre; Florida $0.80 to $4.00; Georgia $ 1 to 2.50 per acre; and Mississippi, $0.80 to $10 per acre.

As with deer hunting, cost expressions are highly debated. Whether the antique shotgun used should be entered into the equation with shot, license, food, lodging, clothing, dogs, and blinds is only one small part of the controversy. The worth of a vacation-day vs a normal day of work foregone for hunting is controversial. Travel-costs seem to be a good way to estimate "willingness-to-pay," but this method is also controversial. Rural System believes that modern urban people will pay a fair price for daily and half-day opportunities, especially those that are, safe, supervised, and in the company of "members" who have training and a professed set of standards. Taking a bird is not required, only the pleasant total experience and the chance to return. Rural System and its Wild Turkey Group manage the "experience" that begins with planning, and continues with equipment buying, travel, scouting the land, hunting (many methods), having group experiences, disposing of the take, and it continues through the year (or a life-time) in reflecting on the experience. We do not provide hunts but an experience. To "rent an area for a season" is to grossly under-utilize regional private land and the wildlife resource.

The Wild Turkey Group does not exist. Nothing in it is absolutely new; nothing has to be invented. Its newness is in its concept, its diversity, and its emphasis on large private land holdings, and pooled resources. The turkey resource is passively managed. Millions of private landowners cannot be contacted with the resources, time, staff or interest available in agencies. To spend a meaninglessly small 2 days with each forest landowner in the turkey range would require a large team of biologists over many working years just to make the first contacts! An option to that silly scenario is to work with corporations and landowners wherein a few decision-makers control vast areas of habitat of the turkey. The Wild Turkey Group may create a demonstration area and the center of such activity. Centralized for knowledge and service, centralized for computer mapping and land analyses, dispersed for cost-effective fieldwork, The Wild Turkey Group can meet many objectives.

The scoring procedure would first ask for the acres within the ownership. If too small to hold and sustain a flock, that would be reported. The area however might be part of a feeding or brooding area of one or more flocks. Thus birds may be seen irregularly but management investments may not be appropriate. A Score will be computed based on the non-structured and non-reserved acres in the ownership. Some factors are substitutable so a relative score is reported based on weighted factors such as:

  1. bird flock present or one or more known to be nearby
  2. poaching under control
  3. diverse grassy/forb areas available and dispersed throughout the forested areas for brood feeding (edge length great)
  4. grassy area stable over time
  5. feral dogs and cats removed/not present
  6. nest predators controlled
  7. hard mast species abundant
  8. hard mast species diverse
  9. hard mast species managed for stable volumes within age classes
  10. conifer clumps present for winter roosts
  11. hunting pressure controlled well
  12. large areas of low stem-density available for foraging
  13. soft mast abundant
  14. lands accessible to hunters/viewers
  15. abundant low-slope lands (discount all over 50 degrees)
  16. soft mast diverse
  17. human density and/or activity low

Virginia Wild Turkey Hunts

Call the Rural System Wild Turkey Group
USDA Forest Serv - Monangahela Plan

Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .

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Robert H. Giles, Jr.
July 2, 2005