Turkey Hunting

A Southern Experience

Throughout the deep South, the advent of spring is ushered in by a cornucopia of color as azaleas, dogwoods, redbuds and Bradford pear trees blossom almost overnight.  Spring is a special time for wildlife too, as many species of birds and mammals choose this time of the year to proliferate their species.  Such is the case with the wild turkey.  This magnificent bird is indigenous to American shores, and if Benjamin Franklin had his way, the wild turkey would be the symbol of this country instead of the bald eagle.  

For thousands of years before the new world was founded by Columbus, the wild turkey was hunted year round by native Indians.  Early Southern settlers hunted the birds for food too, but a demand from restaurants for the wild turkey quickly diminished their once plentiful numbers.  Once their population numbers were significantly depleted, the hunting pretty much stopped. Strangely enough, the turkey hunting seasons in many states did not change, but fewer people hunted them because finding a bird in the wild was so difficult.

Much like the now extinct passenger pigeon, market hunters harvested the wild turkey commercially for sale. Couple this with significant habitat loss due to human development, and a potential wildlife disaster was on the horizon. As late as the Great Depression of the 1930s, the nationwide population of the wild turkey had dwindled to around 30,000 birds.    

Enter conservation minded hunters and the National Wild Turkey Federation, which was founded in the early 1970s, and you have a species revitalization story for the ages. The comeback of the wild turkey is notable, as their numbers have mushroomed nationwide.   For the full article subscribe now!

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