Wild Turkeys in the Sicily Island Hills

Posted: September 2, 2009 in Homepage
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Experiencing wildlife at Sicily Island Hills is always a special treat. To leave the city and noise behind is incredibly peaceful. I have enjoyed many days there listening to sounds of birds as they sing in the silence of the woods. Down the canyon from Rock Falls I have seen deer run downhill, across the stream, and then up the hill. Watching butterflies in summer drift from one wildflower to the next is common.  One day as I was driving on LA 8 a mile or so east of the southern entrance to the WMA, a flock of turkeys crossed the road.

Thank the Lord for the turkeys, for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

As Larry Savage of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries told me,” Sicily Island Hills is certainly a unique WMA and the wild turkey restoration and management story on it is also somewhat unique for our state WMA system”.

The following is an excerpt from my correspondence with Larry Savage of the LDWF as he tells the story of turkeys at Sicily Island Hills:

The upland hardwood forest found on SIHWMA is wonderful turkey habitat and the restoration of wild turkeys was one of the first orders of business for LDWF following acquistion. In 1983, 29 wild-trapped turkeys from Fort Polk WMA (8 hens and 6 gobblers) and South Carolina (7 hens and 8 gobblers) were released in SIHWMA.

The combination of high quality habitat and excellent wild turkey stock (genetically) produced an immediate response from this small transplanted stock. Within just a few years, SIHWMA was supporting one of the highest density turkey populations in the state. When an obvious population surplus developed, the decision was made to use SIHWMA as a primary source of wild turkeys for restocking other suitable areas around the state, rather than opening a hunting season. From 1987 to 1996 over 300 turkeys were captured on SIHWMA and transported across the state (see attached map).

Turkey Map

Additionally, turkeys naturally dispersed from SIHWMA to help repopulate farmland woodlots to the east and Catahoula Parish to the west across the Ouachita River.

As LDWF’s turkey restocking program began winding down, the first spring gobbler season was held on SIHWMA in 1997. Hunters are chosen by lottery to control hunting pressure and provide hunters with a high-quality experience. A youth-only lottery hunt was instituted in 2007. SIHWMA averages about 165 turkey hunting efforts and 12 gobblers harvested per year.

TurkeyTrapping

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From Joe Walters of Winnsboro, President of the Louisiana State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federaton, I learned from a hunters standpoint that Sicily Island Hills is prime but  challenging place to hunt turkeys. He told me that he knows of some hunters who have tried as long as three years before bagging some of the older turkeys.

Joe also told me of Louisiana NWTF banquets held statewide that fund the many projects for which they are rightfully proud. Through their hard work in fund raising the Louisiana NWTF chapter was able in 2004 to give the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries a check for $28,000 to enable the LDWF to purchase 20 acres of private  land known as an inholding – that is land completely surrounded by the wildlife management area.

Through the cooperation of private landowners, groups like the Louisiana State Chapter of the National Turkey Federation and state agencies such as the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, great things are being accomplished to enhance and preserve places like the Sicily Island Hills.  My thanks to all these groups for their continued work to improve our recreational opportunities in Louisiana.

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