If you drive or walk through the Appalachian Mountains, you are sure to cross paths with wild turkeys most any time of year. They are more afraid of you than you may be of them — and they have good reason to be afraid, especially during the spring hunting time that extends from mid-April to mid-May, when hunters can bag up to two of the bearded male birds in the season.
Wild turkeys very often serve as esteemed guests at Thanksgiving, but too often they’re admired for their meat and not their beauty. The birds have skinny heads, a frumpy body and the appearance of a long chicken. But turkeys also have some beautiful feathers, especially noticeable when they fan their tails — also called strutting.
Although most of the turkeys blend in unnoticed in the Appalachian forests and meadows, there are many reasons they should be esteemed. Wild turkeys are agile fliers. They often fly close the ground but can fly high to perch in trees. Turkeys make a variety of vocalizations from gobbles and clucks to putts, purrs, yelps, cuts, whines, cackles and kee-kees.
Huntin’ ’Em Down
If you happened to be in the woods and heard anything other than a gobble, you may not realize it’s a turkey you’re hearing. Turkeys are quick and wily, with the ability to run as fast as 25 miles per hour, one of the reasons you can’t get too near these bashful birds.
Hunting wild turkeys can be very challenging. They can see like eagles, hear like deer, run like dogs and even fly to escape the most determined hunters. Despite the autumn holiday, hunting wild turkeys occurs most often in the spring — on cool, foggy mornings — with the hunter using a turkey call to attract them.
Some states such as Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee enjoy a tradition of turkey hunting with dogs. This practice dates back to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. Whichever way you choose to hunt turkeys, you risk getting hooked on the sport.
In most areas of the mountains, people love to see turkeys foraging through their yards, fields or roadsides. Children and adults alike put out feed during the off-season to encourage them to flock near, although turkeys usually have plenty of “mash,” or wild acorns and nuts, to live on.
More recently, land owners started using plot management to encourage larger and healthier flocks and herds of wild turkeys and white tail deer. Plot management companies like Plant Biologic sell forage blends such as Clover Plus to plant in the fall, leading to great spring products that wild turkeys love.
In partnership with the Natural Wild Turkey Association, Plant Biologic also sells Gold Chafa, a nutritious tuber that is a favorite for wild turkeys to scratch in. If you have the time and land to support wild turkeys, you may want to consider checking out food plots for them at PlantBioLogic.com. Then you can join the ranks of Appalachian huntin’ and watchin’ turkey-lovers.
Picture Credit: Feature picture - By Dimus of WikiMediaCommons.com