The Return of the Eastern Turkey

American hunters looked across this great land and thought there would always be turkeys to hunt, along with bison (buffalo).

Turkeys are Returning to the Wild - They are Now Available in all States Except Alaska!

Over-Harvesting Game

The last of the buffalo roamed the Houston, Texas area in 1836.  Because they were available, hunters over-harvested  … without thinking of the future.

A similar thing happened to turkeys.  By 1920, there were no more wild turkeys in 18 of their original 39 home states!

The statistics are staggering:  All turkeys were gone from

  • New England by 1851
  • Wisconsin in 1872,
  • Michigan in 1886,
  • Indiana by 1890 and
  • Nebraska by 1915

Creating a Plan of Action

Hunters and other conservationists realized that America did not have limitless resources and that constant hunting was killing too many animals.

State departments for animal and land management established rules and   given the authority to enforce them.  Hunters agreed to pay for game innovations through licenses and taxes placed on hunting goods and ammunition.

Turning the Corner with Turkeys

Since those grim days in the early 1900’s, state departments of wildlife have learned how to work with land owners and members of the National Wild Turkey Federation to bring the turkeys back.

Large companies have also helped by donating money and services.

How Did They Bring Turkeys Back?

This is a rather simple explanation, but wildlife departments had to learn certain things:

  • What is a good habitat for turkeys?
  • How do we move some turkeys to these new areas?
  • How do we foster & protect these new herds of turkeys?

In some cases, turkeys were moved from one area to another through “trap-and-release” programs.  Originally, the transplanted turkeys lived on private lands – to protect them from poachers.

States traded stock when they could – thus keeping the costs down.

At the same time, wildlife departments went into the wild turkey raising business, to get enough stock to start new herds in their states.


The transplanting and creating new herds of turkeys has been so successful that turkey hunting has returned to most states.  Here’s the proof:

  • In the 1940’s, there were fewer than 50,000 turkeys across the US.
  • In 1973, there were 1.3 million turkeys in the US,
  • By 1992, there were 3.8 million, and
  • In 2010, turkeys numbered over 7 million!


‘Threesome’ used by Permission of ClearVue Graphics


This blog is a companion to my website:

Published in: on January 17, 2011 at 11:01 am  Comments Off on The Return of the Eastern Turkey  
Tags: ,
%d bloggers like this: