Turkey hunting is one of the most popular types of hunting, but here are five things you might not have known about turkey populations in the U.S.
Millions of hunters take to the woods each spring in the hopes of filling a wild turkey tag. Calling in a wild turkey is one of the most challenging, and rewarding, outdoor pursuits a hunter can undertake. However, there was once a time when turkey hunting was almost impossible due to low numbers. Thankfully, times have changed.
Learn more about wild turkeys with the following five facts about turkey populations in the U.S.
1. Turkeys were once almost extinct in the United States.
That's right. Despite their robust numbers today, there was once a time when the wild turkey was almost completely absent from the woods and fields of the U.S. The main culprits behind the turkey's decline in numbers were unregulated hunting and widespread logging. The logging destroyed the habitat that turkeys require to thrive and the unregulated hunting hurt for obvious reasons. According to the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), turkey populations were at one of their lowest points in the early 1900s. The lowest number nationwide was once as low as 30,000 birds.
2. Turkeys are one of conservation's greatest success stories.
A total population number of 30,000 meant that the wild turkey was very close to extinction. However, the conservation efforts that were undertaken became a massive success. The turkey populations in the United States are now at extremely high levels. Wild turkeys in the U.S. now number close to seven million total birds. Those seven million birds inhabit a total of 715 million acres out of 720 million acres that is of suitable habitat for turkeys.
3. You Can Hunt Turkeys in 49 States.
The only state that does not have a turkey population is Alaska. Wild turkey populations have increased so dramatically that the other 49 states all have hunting seasons for the bird. Yes, that includes Hawaii! For the most diehard turkey hunters, travel is necessary in order to complete a turkey grand slam which involves harvesting one of each of the five subspecies of turkey that exist. The most challenging subspecies to harvest has to be the Gould's turkey. There are only an estimated 600-800 Gould's turkeys in the United States although there is a much larger population located in Mexico.
4. 89 percent of wild turkeys live in the United States.
The only other two countries that have turkey populations are Canada and Mexico. According to the Partners in Flight species assessment database, Canada has two percent of the global population and Mexico has approximately 10 percent. Residents of the United States are lucky enough to enjoy turkey hunting when the majority of the rest of the world cannot. Anyone who has hunted turkey before can definitely be thankful for that.
5. More Hens Means More Gobblers
Turkey hunting can sometimes be an exercise in futility. It doesn't matter how fired up you manage to get a gobbler. If there is a hen between you and your target, the gobbler will often stay with that bird or get "hung-up." However frustrating that may be, more hens does not mean that there will be fewer gobblers to hunt. Quite the opposite in fact. According to the NWTF, more hens equals more gobblers and a stronger turkey population.
The NWTF's Chief Conservation Officer James Earl Kennamer Ph.D. had this to say on the topic:
The gobbler population in a given area is directly related to the reproductive success of hens in the population. Simply put, the more hens there are to be bred, the more gobblers a hunter can expect to see in future seasons.
Turkey hunting is right around the corner and these five facts on turkey populations should help get you pumped up for turkey season.