Wild Turkey Success Story

            Driving around Montgomery County today it’s not uncommon to spot a wild turkey either crossing the road or feeding in an adjacent field.  Seeing these creatures one could easily assume that their numbers have always been strong in this part of the country. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Current wild turkey populations are as high as they’ve been since the beginning of the 20th century. 

            The low point for wild turkeys came around 1970.  During that year the statewide population was estimated to be only 2,000 birds.  Many years of unrestricted seasons, baiting and commercial hunting had lowered populations to this critical point.  Fortunately, the crisis was strong enough to bring together conservation efforts in order to protect and enhance the populations.  Today, just 33 years later, the statewide count is estimated to exceed 130,000 birds. 

            Two groups have been the primary forces behind this impressive rebound.  The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has spent years studying and working with turkey populations to broaden their reaches.  A great amount of the funding and volunteer work has come via the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).  The NWTF is a national conservation organization dedicated to supporting scientific management of the wild turkey.  Together, these two organizations have spent millions of dollars and countless hours to rehabilitate North Carolina ’s wild turkey populations. 

            Today, turkeys exist in every single county in North Carolina .  Populations are strong enough in 93 of the 100 counties to support a spring gobbler season.  In nine counties along the Virginia border populations have grown enough to warrant a winter, either-sex season.  Hunters of wild turkeys now spend millions of dollars in the local economy during their pursuit.  In Montgomery County , populations are especially strong thanks to the large amount of forested landscape.  Turkey hunting in the county is also strong due to the large areas of public lands. 

            The next time you’re driving along and catch a glimpse of a turkey take a moment to appreciate it.  Only 30 years ago, we were on the brink of not having any of these creatures roaming our forests and fields.  Fortunately, with the tremendous efforts of government agencies and conservation groups the turkey population is no longer in peril.  In fact, it is flourishing.  And if you’ve ever heard a tom gobbling in the spring you can’t help but hope that they continue to thrive.