What Is It About Turkeys and Fields?

Fields are a big draw for turkeys. It’s true for hens and gobblers, and it’s true from the early season until after the hatch when the young poults are learning what they should be eating.

Contributing Writer
Steve Sorensen

Music lovers know rainy days and Mondays would always get Karen Carpenter down, and usually you and me, too. But they never get turkeys down. Turkeys don’t know what a Monday is, but they do know what a rainy day is. And rainy days always get turkeys up.

Virtually every seasoned turkey hunter will tell you, head for the fields on rainy days. That’s where the turkeys go. But why? Common sense gives us the answers.

The reason most often given is that turkeys feel safer in fields than in the timber when it’s raining. Every predator loves turkey meat, so most turkey behavior revolves around safety.

Turkeys have two main defenses, their eyes and their ears. Their eyes are far and away their best defense. A turkey does not have the curiosity of a deer. They do not watch something that might be a threat and try to figure out what it is. A turkey never thinks, “I’ll just wait a bit to see if it kills me.” If they see something they don’t understand, they skedaddle.

Their ears are important too. The job of the ears is to identify the many sounds they hear. When it’s raining, falling raindrops slapping the leaves create a commotion that confuses their acute hearing. The noise obscures and camouflages sound, disabling their ability to distinguish innocuous sounds from dangerous sounds.

Since they can’t trust their ears when it’s raining, turkeys compensate for that diminished defense mechanism by heading for a field where the big bird doesn’t need to rely on his ears to detect danger. With no trees or brush obstructing his vision, his eyes become his most important defense when he’s feeding in a field.

And that brings us to the second reason turkeys head for fields on rainy days. Turkeys, like any wildlife, must make food a high priority. Fields are full of food with the two qualifications turkeys seek. They can catch it and they can swallow it. What do turkeys eat in fields, and how does rain help them find food in fields?

One study reported that one square meter of field habitat will have about 140 spiders. That knowledge will give you and me enough heebie-jeebies to keep us from lying down in a field. Who wants to be covered in creepy crawly spiders? But turkeys? They don’t regard spiders the way we do. Spiders are food, along with crickets, grasshoppers, and other insects.

When it’s raining, insects cling to the underside of the blades of grass to stay dry. All these edibles slow down and wait for the sun and the breeze to dry everything out. That creates a smorgasbord of easy pickings for turkeys. Without ignoring the safety advantage fields offer, food is an equally important reason turkeys head to fields when it’s raining (and also on mornings with heavy dew).

One more question needs to be answered. What kind of fields draw turkeys? Fields with plenty of life. If safety was the only issue and food wasn’t a significant factor, turkeys would show up as often in dry, lifeless fields as they do in fields that are full of life. Fields of dead goldenrod and fields that haven’t been cultivated for a decade or so aren’t much of a draw for turkeys.

The fields turkeys head for are green fields, where the grass is lush and the creeping things turkeys feed on slow down in the wetness. Turkeys also head for plowed fields. Those too have beetles and other insects, along with worms, and other dietary delicacies turkeys love.

Rainy days might get you down, but they get turkeys up for feeding where food is plentiful and easy to grab. So get up for rainy days—that’s a great time to find turkeys in fields. Then the trick is to figure out what part of the field is most desirable for turkeys. With that, you’re on your own.

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He is a field contributor to Deer and Deer Hunting magazine, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.

Previous articleLet’s Talk Pets
Next articleBemus Point Church Unveils New Sign
Steve Sorensen of Russell, PA is an award-winning writer whose column, The Everyday Hunter®, offers hunting tips, strategies, insights and occasional humor. His byline has appeared in the nation's top hunting magazines and he is a field contributor to "Deer and Deer Hunting" magazine. Steve is also in demand as an event speaker, presenting programs on do-it-yourself Alaska moose hunting, whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and eastern coyotes, with new programs coming. E-mail him at [email protected] to invite him to speak at your next sportsman's dinner (or to tell him where your best hunting spot is).