March Outdoor Column

Did you know; That the wild turkey population, nation-wide is estimated at 7 million birds? This is up from 1.3 million birds estimated in 1973. Illinois has an estimated population of 150,000 birds while Indiana has an estimated population of 120,000 birds.
These figures would just boggle a turkey hunter’s mind as these birds are wary and offer a challenge to any hunter. When I grew up there were no turkey or deer in Illinois so that should give you an idea of my age. There were pheasants, rabbits, and quail as well as squirrels, ducks and geese but no deer or wild turkey. It would seem that hunting the wild turkey would be a simple process; find where they roost and where they feed and place yourself somewhere in between to take your turkey.

Not so! These birds well adept at finding a way to avoid the hunter and this is what makes hunting these wild birds such a difficult challenge. Those hunters that can mimic the sound of an old “Tom” are those hunters that have the most success. Learning to work a turkey call properly is a skill not possessed by many hunters so getting a good turkey call and learning to use it is a must for hunting these birds.

I remember several old turkey hunters telling me some great stories of their experiences with wild turkeys. I have written an outdoor column for our local newspaper for forty years so I get a lot of stories from local hunters and anglers. One story I recall dealt with the speed of these elusive birds.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources were releasing some wild turkeys on this man’s property so he went out to watch the release. They had released four of the five birds when he decided to take a picture of the last bird, the only “Tom” in the bunch. He told me he had his camera focused on the box the bird was in and told them to release it. As soon as they opened the box, the birds jumped out and he snapped the picture; all he got was the box! He told me that bird was the “fastest bird alive”!

Another story was about the intelligence of these birds. This guy told me that he had a small field behind his home with three stumps in the field. An old “Tom” would come in there every morning so he spent the winter hollowing out an old stump which he could hide in. The first few mornings of the season he hid in his old stump waiting for the turkey to come in; it never did! This went on through the week-long season without the guy ever getting the turkey to enter the field. The day the season was over he took the stump back to the barn and the next morning, there was the turkey. He told me that old “Tom” knew that there were three stumps in that field and not four. The bird came back in the field every morning thereafter!

Check out Big R Stores sporting goods department for all your hunting needs. Retail locations in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin


About Sam Van Camp

Born: Danville, Illinois | Married: Pam Van | Lives: Georgetown, Illinois | High School: Danville High School | College: Danville Area Community College, Eastern Illinois University | Degree: Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology with Minor in Botany | Specialties Areas: Master’s Degree – Fisheries Biology, Mammalogy, Herpetology | Previous Jobs: School Teacher – Basic Biology 36 years Outdoor Writer – 38 years (1 Book Published “Jitterbug Collector’s Guide State and Federally Licensed Taxidermist – 35 yearsWood Carver specializing in song birds, birds of prey and waterfowl 46 years | Hobbies: Bass Fishing, Hunting, Collecting Fishing Lures