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Hunting the Wild Turkey Explained

Nov 25, 2007
The familiar barnyard gobbler is the same species as the wild turkey. It has merely adapted itself, with the aid of man, to live with the other fowl of the farm rather than stay in woods where it first came from.

Everybody knows what the barnyard turkey looks like, since he is the traditional bird of the Thanksgiving and Christmas table. The early explorers of our country depended upon him for many a main course at the family table.

Yet, this bird in the wild state is perhaps the most tricky and hardest to stalk of any of the game birds of America (due to its shy and alert nature) even though it is a large bird, our largest. He is a recluse of the dense forests, hardly ever ranging in the open country particularly when men with guns are abroad. In the early days the wild turkey roamed over almost all the land, but the inroads of civilization caused him to retreat until today he is found only in the remotest woods and swamps.

Conservation departments of the various states where he formerly lived in peace are trying to stage a comeback for him by restocking and protecting him from over hunting and predators. It is a long hard pull against heavy odds. In New York State, for instance, stocking the woods of the state forests has gradually re-established the bird in several very small areas.

Working from farmer stock bred with captured wild birds, a strain has been developed which seems to be holding on. The southland states of Florida, Georgia and their neighbors have many areas where the wild turkey is still found in great abundance.

This is the only game bird which can also be shot legally with a rifle as well as a shotgun. Dogs are no help in turkey hunting. The hunter uses a small call to attract the bird, or attempts to hold his attention until he can be seen or approached. The turkey will run every time rather than flush into the air. It is a rare and beautiful sight to see one streaking through the pines in full flight with its powerful wings biting the air and its magnificent tail spread.

The male grows to a length of forty-eight inches, the female, usually about thirty-seven inches. Both have a wing-spread of about five feet, and weigh between fifteen and twenty pounds.

Gobblers live where they can feed on acorns, nuts, berries, plants, seeds, and insects. They lay between nine and eighteen eggs each spring and grow to a ripe old age of twelve years.

Their tail feathers were used by the Indians for tribal costumes, especially when eagle feathers were not obtainable. Today their feathers are of value to trout fly tiers and are also for other decorative purposes. As for their use as food, they are much superior in flavor to their farm-raised brothers, but of course, the flabby farm stock is much more tender.

If you live in an area where the turkey was once a "native," try to get the local gun club boys to cooperate with the state conservation department to attempt reintroducing the turkey to your woodlands. You can probably enlist the help of an owner of private posted land, or use an Audubon sanctuary for your initial stocking.

Good luck with hunting the turkey!
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