Turkey Hunting: History and Importance
By the early 1900s, most wild turkey populations had been wiped out in North America, victims of centuries of habitat destruction and commercial harvest. As late as the Great Depression, fewer than 30,000 wild turkeys remained in the entire United States.
Fortunately, our nation's hunters, wildlife agencies and conservation organizations intervened and turkey populations rebounded dramatically. More than 7 million wild turkeys now roam North America, with huntable populations in every U.S. state but Alaska. Wild turkeys are also hunted in parts of Canada and Mexico.
This turnaround began in 1937 with the passage of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, which placed taxes on firearms, ammunition and other hunting equipment and earmarked funds for conservation and wildlife habitat enhancement programs. Lobbied for and supported by sportsmen, this tax has raised billions of dollars for wildlife restoration.
Long before European settlers arrived in the Americas, Native Americans enjoyed abundant populations of wild turkeys, and hunted the birds for food.
At least 4,000 years ago, these early Americans created calls from turkey wingbones to help them bring turkeys in close enough to kill.
This money is still needed today to support continuing efforts to conserve wild turkeys and other game and non-game species. With nearly 3 million sportsmen and women considering themselves turkey hunters, all paying taxes on their equipment and buying hunting licenses, the sport's continuing contribution to conservation cannot be overlooked.
Since 1985, the National Wild Turkey Federation's volunteers and partners have spent more than $372 million on projects to help wildlife agencies trap and relocate turkeys to areas of suitable habitat and improve the health of our nation's forests and woodlands.