Wild Turkey History

Wild turkey history leads from a time that turkeys were the hallmark of the American wilderness to their disappearance from thirty states. With conservation efforts helping wild turkey numbers rebound, wild turkey hunting is once again gaining popularity.

| March 2015

  • Two turkeys
    Wild turkeys are slimmer and taller than their domesticated counterparts, but overall carry about the same amount of dressed meat per pound of live weight.
    Photo by Fotolia/photobyjimshane
  • Turkey feather
    Turkey tail feathers have a striking, distinctive color pattern.
    Illustration by Jack Mesick
  • Turkey wishbones
    Comparing wild and domestic turkey wishbones reveals the broader, heavier shape of domesticated turkeys, compared to the leaner, lighter bones of wild turkeys.
    Illustration by Jack Mesick
  • Turkey comparison
    The difference in shape between wild and domestic turkeys is readily apparent.
    Illustration by Jack Mesick
  • Wild Turkeys
    Experienced veterinarian and hunter John J. Mettler, Jr., discusses the habits and habitat of wild turkeys in "Wild Turkeys," offering insight into every aspect of wild turkey hunting.
    Cover courtesy Storey Publishing

  • Two turkeys
  • Turkey feather
  • Turkey wishbones
  • Turkey comparison
  • Wild Turkeys

Wild Turkeys (Storey Publishing, 1998), by John J. Mettler, Jr., covers everything the aspiring turkey hunter might need to know to be successful. From wild turkey history, habits and habitat to equipment recommendations and field dressing information, Mettler has written the most comprehensive guide for turkey hunters of all ages and skill levels.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Wild Turkeys.

Sitting under a hemlock tree, trying to keep dry while deer hunting on a drizzly November day more than thirty years ago, I thought, “I must have dozed and dreamed I heard turkeys.” Once I was fully awake, I again heard the “churrup churrip” clearly, unmistakably turkey talk, but in the half light of the hemlock swamp I could see nothing. I had read in the New York State Conservationist that wild turkeys were going to be released, but had heard of none in our local area. Still, these were turkey sounds, similar to those I was used to hearing at the Berkshire Sheep and Turkey Farm, a veterinary client of mine.

I loved this particular spot. Deer would come in on occasion to bed down, but even if they didn’t, there were apt to be ruffed grouse, squirrels, blue jays, chickadees, and other small creatures that ignored me while I watched and enjoyed them. One day while I sat under this very tree, a red-tailed hawk swept in and grabbed a gray squirrel from a limb over my head and was gone in the blink of an eye. But turkeys? Still, what other creature made such a noise?



The sound surrounded me, and then invisibly drifted past. I turned my head to peer at a movement on my left. For the first time in my life I heard the classic turkey warning sound, “puck! puck!” As I turned my head the whole forest floor exploded with the flapping of huge, black birds.

It was dry under the tree so I stayed where I was. After about fifteen minutes, from a distance away I heard another sound I’d never heard before, the “chur chur chur” of the hen calling the flock to assemble.

kambrose
4/6/2015 11:59:07 AM

I was excited to read this article because I have done so much research online that I possible could. I wanted to see if I could learn anymore about them.********** Well this article was such a disappointing read and read false information that I had to comment.********** Let me start from the beginning and ill make it short and to the point.********** Scientist found that more than 1,500 years before Christopher Columbus and his crew sailed to the New World, Native Americans had already domesticated turkeys twice: first in south-central Mexico at around 800 B.C. and again in what is now the southwestern U.S. at about 200 B.C., according to a new study.********** their investigations revealed that pre-Aztec people around south-central Mexico first domesticated turkeys. The birds appear to either have either been penned or "allowed to roam around the village.********** The southwestern turkeys, on the other hand, "were raised by the Ancestral Puebloans who lived on the Colorado Plateau, around the Four Corners region of the southwest United States.********** These Puebloans, also known as the Anasazi, appear to have not only raised domestic turkeys, but also incorporated local wild turkeys into their domestic stocks.********** 300 BC and 100 AD Mayans must have traded with the Mexican turkey because they show around that time having them.********** Turkeys were being raised by Mexico and central America 500 years before the Spanish came. 1511 turkeys came to Spain.********** in 1519 the turkey went to Europe and 1524-1541 to England for gourmet dinners.********** Over two centuries, several varieties of turkey were developed in Europe. In the 18th century these turkey breeds were imported back the United States. Imagine there surprise to already see turkeys here ;)eventually these turkeys were crossbred with wild eastern turkeys leading to 7 standard domestic varieties in the united states.********** Narragansett********** Bourbon red********** standard bronze********** jersey buff********** Slate********** Black********** White Holland********** These are called the heritage turkeys. These Heritage turkeys are the parents of the common broad breasted white industrial breed turkey you see in 99% of stores today. Holland and Bronze are crossed into the broad breasted white.********** Later added to the Standard are Royal Palm, White Midget, and Beltsville small white.********** Since 1960s, large corporations dominated turkey production and breeding choosing the broad breasted whites cause of a high breast meat production in a short period.********** Heritage breeds are known for there tender fine flavor, beauty and thriftiness.********** By 1990, Heritage birds are nearly in extinction.********** The today Whites cannot mate naturally, they dont walk well. Their narrow genetic base makes them vulnerable to diseases. They are dry and lack flavor.********** Wild Turkeys~********** Turkeys from the southwest were improted from Mexico about 300 AD and re domesticated in the southwest about 1100 AD when turkey husbandry really took off. Wild turkeys were found by the European colonists throughout the eastern woodlands. Variations in color were noted in the 16th century and many were carted back to Europe.********** there are 6 subspecies of wild turkey.********** Eastern********** Florida********** Rio Grande********** Merriams********** Goulds********** Southern Mexican********** And then the Ocellated Turkey is considerably different in size and coloration and thought it could be a different species.********** It is native to Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and often found wondering in Maya ruins such a Tikal. They are more resistant to domestication among the turkeys that were kept in pens by the Aztecs.********** To find more information on your own online. Google Mexican turkey, Wild turkey, Heritage turkey, Native American domesticated turkey, Aztec domesticated turkey, etc etc..**********


kambrose
4/6/2015 10:25:31 AM

I was excited to read this article because I have done so much research online that I possible could. I wanted to see if I could learn anymore about them. Well this article was such a disappointing read and read false information that I had to comment. Let me start from the beginning and ill make it short and to the point. Scientist found that more than 1,500 years before Christopher Columbus and his crew sailed to the New World, Native Americans had already domesticated turkeys twice: first in south-central Mexico at around 800 B.C. and again in what is now the southwestern U.S. at about 200 B.C., according to a new study. their investigations revealed that pre-Aztec people around south-central Mexico first domesticated turkeys. The birds appear to either have either been penned or "allowed to roam around the village. The southwestern turkeys, on the other hand, "were raised by the Ancestral Puebloans who lived on the Colorado Plateau, around the Four Corners region of the southwest United States. These Puebloans, also known as the Anasazi, appear to have not only raised domestic turkeys, but also incorporated local wild turkeys into their domestic stocks. 300 BC and 100 AD Mayans must have traded with the Mexican turkey because they show around that time having them. Turkeys were being raised by Mexico and central America 500 years before the Spanish came. 1511 turkeys came to Spain. in 1519 the turkey went to Europe and 1524-1541 to England for gourmet dinners. Over two centuries, several varieties of turkey were developed in Europe. In the 18th century these turkey breeds were imported back the United States. Imagine there surprise to already see turkeys here ;)eventually these turkeys were crossbred with wild eastern turkeys leading to 7 standard domestic varieties in the united states. Narragansett Bourbon red standard bronze jersey buff Slate Black White Holland These are called the heritage turkeys. These Heritage turkeys are the parents of the common broad breasted white industrial breed turkey you see in 99% of stores today. Holland and Bronze are crossed into the broad breasted white. Later added to the Standard are Royal Palm, White Midget, and Beltsville small white. Since 1960s, large corporations dominated turkey production and breeding choosing the broad breasted whites cause of a high breast meat production in a short period. Heritage breeds are known for there tender fine flavor, beauty and thriftiness. By 1990, Heritage birds are nearly in extinction. The today Whites cannot mate naturally, they dont walk well. Their narrow genetic base makes them vulnerable to diseases. They are dry and lack flavor. Wild Turkeys~ Turkeys from the southwest were improted from Mexico about 300 AD and re domesticated in the southwest about 1100 AD when turkey husbandry really took off. Wild turkeys were found by the European colonists throughout the eastern woodlands. Variations in color were noted in the 16th century and many were carted back to Europe. there are 6 subspecies of wild turkey. Eastern Florida Rio Grande Merriams Goulds Southern Mexican And then the Ocellated Turkey is considerably different in size and coloration and thought it could be a different species. It is native to Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and often found wondering in Maya ruins such a Tikal. They are more resistant to domestication among the turkeys that were kept in pens by the Aztecs. To find more information on your own online. Google Mexican turkey, Wild turkey, Heritage turkey, Native American domesticated turkey, Aztec domesticated turkey, etc etc..


HuntgirlDC
4/6/2015 9:00:59 AM

For more information on the plight of the Wild Turkey, visit the National Wild Turkey Federation website, www.nwtf.org . NWTF is a volunteer based non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the conservation of the wild turkey, natural resources, and the preservation of our hunting heritage. Volunteers (homesteaders, hunters, farmers, families, business men, women and children)from around the country strive together in their local communities to Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. Find out how to get involved in your local area. Until you hear a turkey gobble in Mother Earth's wide-woods, you don't know what you're missing.







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