Turkeys are a difficult bird to hunt. They’re elusive and hard to track. But like any wild animal, they spend a lot of their time looking for food. So, if you know what do turkeys eat, there’s a good chance you will know where to find a turkey.
Everyone likes to put a turkey on the table over the holidays, be it for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I often find that the food a bird lives on has a direct impact on the taste of that animal. This is why you often see corn fed chicken in the shop or even grass-fed beef being promoted as superior.
Finding a turkey’s food source is a sure way to find a turkey, but finding a turkey over an optimal food source is a way to find a tastier turkey.
Foods Turkeys Eat
Turkeys are omnivores. They happily eat both animals and vegetables. A turkey is not a picky eater by any means and will readily consume a large variety of foods, such as:
- snakes, lizards, tadpoles
- worms, slugs, snails, caterpillars, and grasshoppers
- acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts
- berries, grapes, crabapples
- seeds and grain
- grass, leaves, and plant shoots
- small stones and gravel (to aid digestion)
That is a small example of foods that wild turkeys eat. As you can see, they are opportunistic feeders with a diverse range in diet.
A few things influence the diet of wild turkeys.
Location: Turkeys found in forested areas generally consume more nuts and buds. In contrast, turkeys found in open areas will feed on reptiles, insects, and grasses. Those located near farms usually can find an abundance of grains and seeds to satisfy their needs.
Season: As we mentioned earlier, turkeys are opportunistic feeders and eat what is most readily available. During autumn and winter, nuts, berries, and small fruits make up the brunt of their diet. In early spring into summer, they feed on plants, grasses, sedges, and insects.
When Turkeys Eat
The best time to find a turkey is first thing in the morning. Turkeys rise early from their nests in search of food. They are generally quieter during the day and start being active again during the evening.
Turkeys are predominately ground feeders and rarely feed while perched in a tree. To find food, they will scratch at the ground looking for bugs or plant shoots. Finding turkey scratches is a surefire way of tracking turkeys.
A turkey has no teeth and swallows its food whole. It is then stored in their crop to digest slowly. Turkeys have two stomachs. The gastric stomach will soften the food with gastric juices. The small stones that help to grind up the food for digestion are found in the second stomach known as the gizzard.
Hunting turkeys is by no means an easy task, but understanding their feeding pattern sure helps in tracking them. Find that food source, and you’re bound to find a turkey. I find that turkeys that feed on berries and fruit tend to have a sweeter flavor, whereas those that feed on nuts and grasses have a deeper flavor.
Whatever your taste, putting a gobbler on the table is a fine way to end any turkey hunt.