Wild Turkey
Hunting Info
Turkey Calls
Turkey Store
  Wild Turkey Zone

Intro to Wild Turkey


Rio Grande








Introduction to the Wild Turkey - Meleagris Gallopavo


Early America


Early Colonial American History of the Wild Turkey

In 1620, the Pilgrims disembarked from the Mayflower onto the "New World," currently known as Plymouth, Massachusetts. As colonist began to search for sources of food, they met up with Northeastern Native Americans. There new neighbors shared their knowledge of hunting large fowl. The colonist were surprised to see turkey cocks gobbling and strutting on this land similar to the domesticated ones they brought from England. The delicious meat of the wild turkey was an important and an abundant food supply for both Indians and settlers. Soon the New World Pilgrims were cross breeding both stocks of Turkeys at the Plymouth Plantation.

Some experts think that roast turkey adorned the first Thanksgiving dinner the Pilgrims had in 1621. Others credit the settlers of Virginia's Jamestown with celebrating the first Thanksgiving as their version of England's ancient Harvest Home Festival.

Wild Turkey as Our National Bird

On July 4 1776, the First Continental Congress selected a committee to design the Great Seal of the United States of America. It was the task of three founding fathers: Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson to select a political icon that best reflected the new country.

Benjamin Franklin used his legendary humor to rebut John Adams nomination of the Bald Eagle similar to Germany's Imperial Eagle Sable. Franklin considered the turkey, not the eagle, as a fitting emblem for the Great Seal. To his dismay, Franklin's turkey was outvoted by a large margin. In a letter to his daughter he wrote:

"For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country....

I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a Red Coat on."

Brilliant artist and naturalist, John James Audubon thought highly of the patriotic qualities of the turkey.

"Male turkeys can turn their heads red, white and blue by controlling the flow of oxygen to their heads while strutting."

Turkeys Endangered

Although wild turkeys could fly fast, they couldn't fly far, so they became easy shots for hunters. Once American pioneers discovered turkeys were not blessed with either adequate vision or high IQs, and could be easily trapped, they became the settler's primary source of food.

The turkey trap was a simple contraption that consisted of a covered pen with a turkey-sized tunnel dug underneath one wall. On the ground outside, a trail of corn led from the thicket to the tunnel to the interior of the pen. The unsuspecting turkey would peck up the corn, go inside the pen and become so flustered it would be unable to find its way out.

As pioneers pushed west and cut and cleared virgin forests, the turkey's habitat changed and wild turkey numbers dwindled. In the late 1700s, turkeys were harvested without restraint and marketed for human consumption. (Some historical reports mention that hens sold for 6 cents apiece while big gobblers brought a quarter at game markets). Wild turkeys were so plentiful; in fact, people looked down on turkey as food suitable for the lower classes. Men of means, however, encouraged turkey breeding to insure that turkey feathers-dyed to decorate their wives' hats, dresses and coats-remained in plentiful supply. By the mid 1800s the Civil War brought a shortage of food and the big bird had been eliminated from nearly half of its original range.

In 1840 J J Audubon wrote, as to the turkey's status in his time:

"The unsettled parts of the States of Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana, an immense extent of country to the north-west of these districts, upon the Mississippi and Missouri, and the vast regions drained by these rivers from their confluence to Louisiana, including the wooded parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama, are the most abundantly supplied with this magnificent bird. It is less plentiful in Georgia and the Carolinas, becomes still scarcer in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and is now very rarely seen to the eastward of the last-mentioned States. In the course of my ramble through Long Island, the State of New York, and the country around the Lakes, I did not meet with a single individual, although I was informed that some exist in those parts. At the time when I removed to Kentucky, rather more than a fourth of a century ago, Turkeys were so abundant that the price of one in the market was not equal to that of a common barn fowl now. I have seen them offered for the sum of three pence each, the birds weighing from ten to twelve pounds. A first-rate Turkey, weighing from twenty-five to thirty pounds avoirdupois, was considered well sold when it brought a quarter of a dollar."


Turkey and Turkey Hunting Turkey and Turkey Hunting --- $14.95

Turkey & Turkey Hunting Magazine focuses on turkey hunting techniques, turkey behavior and biology, the latest wild turkey research for hunters, equipment, destinations, and hunting ethics.


Take time to visit - www.engineershandbook.com

Copyright © 1998 - 2006 The Wild Turkey Zone - Robert Ramsdale - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy