Editor’s note: The following column was originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader on Nov. 25, 2000.
AS A YOUNGSTER, I would take to grandfather’s woods in search of a wild turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner. My fowling piece was a rather poor wooden replica of a gun. But in my young imagination, it was just the thing to accomplish the day’s objective. How surprised I would have been to have come across one of these great birds foraging for its dinner beneath the oak trees.
How the turkey population has grown since early in 1969, when the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department acquired a small flock of wild turkeys in a trade with the state of West Virginia for some fishers (commonly called “fisher cats”).
Those birds were true wild turkeys that were trapped in West Virginia and carefully transported to New Hampshire. Don Allison was in charge of the experimental transfer, and several years ago he told me that 11 birds were received in that first shipment. During the summer of 1969, there was one brood reported with four or five poults raised.
Fifteen more turkeys were received during the winter and spring of 1970. The birds wintered well in southeastern New Hampshire by feeding near spring seeps that kept the ground open even though there was considerable snow. They fed on acorns and seeds from ash trees and spent their time trailing from one seep to another. It was estimated that there were 22-29 turkeys at the beginning of the 1970 breeding season.
Under the direction of Ted Walski, biologist for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, New Hampshire’s wild turkey program has been a huge success. It would be difficult to say just how many wild turkeys will roam through our forests and meadows this Thanksgiving Day, but according to Ted, the 2000 spring turkey harvest resulted in the taking of 1,882 birds. That was an increase of 37 percent over the harvest of 1,380 birds in 1999.
Stacey Cole, Nature Talks columnist for more than 50 years, passed away in 2014. If readers have a favorite column written by Stacey that they would like to see reprinted, please drop a note to Jen Lord at email@example.com.