Attracting wild turkeys at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay

The golf course works to provide a natural habitat and food sources for its wildlife.

Paul L. Carter, CGCS
The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, Harrison, Tenn.
Published date: January 2011

The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay

The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay is an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course located near Chattanooga, Tenn. Tennessee’s Department of Environment and Conservation operates the course. The Bear Trace became an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary in 2008. Since then we have been exploring new ways to improve and enhance the environment. On Dec. 7, 2009, a flock of 19 turkeys was seen on the golf course. We had always wanted turkeys, but had never seen more than one at a time until then.

Encouraging wildlife

We consulted with David Stone, golf course superintendent at The Honors Course, to learn how to encourage turkeys to stay at The Bear Trace. We followed his expert opinion, placing cracked corn on the ground near corridors that the turkeys frequented. The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay

As the days passed, the same flock of turkeys continued to visit. Each day the turkeys became more and more comfortable with their surroundings. The longer they stayed, the more we were able to observe the flock without disturbing them. We realized that we needed to provide a better and more suitable way of providing supplemental food for the turkeys. We researched mechanical feeders, but because of funding limitations, this was not possible. Many feeder styles were discussed, but we settled on a simple trough gravity-fed design. The trough refills as gravity pulls more cracked corn down into the trough.

Step-by-step guide for setting up a turkey feeder

Because of its sturdiness, we used black double walled ADS 4 inch diameter solid drain tiles for feeders. It fit the bill for both cost and appearance. The drain tiles were black and already on site so we didn’t have to incur any additional costs.

Here’s how we created our turkey feeders:

  • We cut off a 24-inch section of the pipe to make the trough. The pipe was capped on one end with a standard ADS 4-inch cap. The other end was inserted into a standard 4-inch, 90-degree elbow.
  • The top vertical half of the pipe was cut out and removed on an 18-inch section of the pipe. Small holes were drilled in the bottom of the trough pipe to allow moisture to drain out and not damage the feed. This area would serve as the feed’s trough.
  • A 6-foot section of solid pipe was then inserted into the other side of the 90 degree elbow. A cap was placed on the end of the pipe.
  • The pipe’s larger section was placed against the tree and directed upward to serve as the holding tube for the feed. This allows the feed to be gravity fed into the trough.
  • The feeder was attached to a tree on the 17th hole.

It only took the turkeys (and other animals) a few days to find and use the feeder.

The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay

Minor issues and long-term fixes

We soon realized the trough was too long and could not support the weight of the feed. The force of the feeding action was damaged. A deer was observed stepping on the trough which was located about 12- to 15-inches above the ground. The deer knocked the trough section off, releasing all the feed in the storage tube. We shortened the trough section to 12 inches and have not had any issues since.

Successes and next steps

Although our first turkey feeder was a success, we have already started working on improvements. The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay

Our next feeder was made using a 4-inch, black PVC irrigation pipe. This feeder is stronger than the ADS feeder and has shown no damage since being placed on the golf course. We produced another feeder using gray electrical conduit instead of spray paint to ensure no animals were harmed. Thanks to our successful feeder implementation, turkeys have stayed on our golf course. Polts fledged this year, and we estimate that the wild turkey population has more than doubled at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay. Our golfers love to see wildlife on the golf course, and many have asked us about our feeders. Everyone is very appreciative of the efforts we’ve made to enhance our wildlife habitat.

Learn more about The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay.