There is truly nothing like wandering into the spring woods before the first rays of light have cut across the horizon and listening for and trying to spark up owl chatter in hopes of hearing a shock-gobble in the distance.
I wish I had found turkey hunting earlier in life. It was not that I didn’t have the desire to hunt turkeys; there simply weren’t many birds around when I was growing up in northern Delaware. In fact, I did not start regularly hunting turkeys until I moved to Wyoming and read in the state’s game and fish magazine about the extremely high success rate for turkey hunters in the Black Hills. But, after tagging my first spring gobbler, I was truly and instantly hooked.
My story is not unlike the story of many hunters as turkeys have not always been so abundant. Before the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) was established in 1973, there were only an estimated 1.3 million turkeys across the country. And this was up from historic lows of approximately 200,000 in the early 1900s.
Today, there are more than 6 million wild turkeys across 49 states, parts of Mexico and several Canadian provinces. A growth in numbers like this is truly a testament to what can be accomplished when state agencies work together for the great good of our natural wildlife resources and there also is a species-specific conservation organization pushing for the survival of that single species.
While turkey sightings are no longer a rarity, the work of the NWTF and every other like-minded hunter-based organization working nonstop on behalf of hunting, the shooting sports and our natural wildlife resources is far from over. The future of wildlife conservation and our hunting heritage depends on the growth in ranks of recreational shooters and outdoorsmen and women, who are this country’s true conservationists. As sportsmen work to secure the future of hunting and wildlife conservation, the NWTF is doing its part by launching a new initiative: Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. The 10-year initiative focuses on conserving critical upland habitat, creating more hunters and enhancing access to hunting land.
Every American hunter recognizes we need more places to hunt, fish and shoot. As the public relations manager of the NWTF, I can say firsthand that an astonishing 89 cents on each dollar raised by the NWTF go directly to mission-related work. It is easy to find collaborative projects going on in your area that help to conserve precious acreage, recruit hunters or open additional access for hunting and shooting enjoyment. Whether we volunteer to work on projects offered by the NWTF or any other organization, each of us can be a part of the solution.