Lorne Smith: Thanksgiving and Turkeys

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Lorne Smith: Thanksgiving and Turkeys

Loran Smith
Loran Smith

With Thanksgiving coming up, most of us will enjoy turkey in some fashion or other during this wonderful holiday when we stop and say thanks for the good things we enjoy.

An enduring high five is in order for the many organizations and individuals who go the extra mile to see that families in need enjoy a nice meal at Thanksgiving.  





Americans are generous at Thanksgiving, and Americans are also social on the last Thursday in November.  Each year approximately 46 million turkeys are killed for the holiday.  That translates into 1.4 billion pounds of turkey, according to the Internet, which further informs that is about one turkey for every person in Spain—for whatever that’s worth. Turkey has become more and more popular for those who are avoiding red meat. 

With a modicum of research, you can learn some very interesting facts about turkeys.

Only the male turkey can gobble, which comes about during the mating season.  If you are a turkey hunter, you know what it is like to be sitting in a blind in some remote area before daybreak and hear that distinct sound.   There is nothing quite like hearing an expert coaxing a gobbler into range of your shotgun as he is attracted to the sounds of a hen with which he wants to mate.





Wild turkeys can fly, and in short bursts, they can reach 55 miles per hour.  While wild turkeys can see better than humans, according to the experts, three times better, they sleep in trees because they can’t see as well at night.  By flying up into the trees to roost keeps them from becoming easy prey for predators.  They roost at dusk and fly down at dawn.

An advocate of the turkey was founder Benjamin Franklin who considered the bald eagle, which became our national bird, “a bird of bad moral character,” because of the eagle’s habit of stealing from other birds.  Franklin called the turkey a “much more respectable bird, a bird of courage and a true original native of America.”

Like the Bison, the turkey almost became extinct.  When the European colonists arrived here, it is estimated that there were more than 10 million wild turkeys in the country.

They were a popular food item for the early settlers, and with no limits and no hunting restrictions, they were hunted with abandon to the extent that by 1910-20 the turkey population was down to a couple hundred thousand.

One thing that helped the wild turkey to make a comeback was the Great Depression.  A lot of people, to survive, left the farms and moved to the cities to find work. This caused the native habitat for turkeys to return, and the turkeys gained a footing for survival.

Conservationists were important too for the turkey’s survival. Since some states had a total loss of turkeys, there was an effort to try to catch turkeys in the more populous areas and move them to the states which had lost its turkey population.

Do you have any idea of how tough it is to capture a wild turkey?  The success rate was almost nil.  With the introduction of the net cannon, however, the game changed dramatically.  The net cannon enabled conservationists to capture turkeys easily and then transfer them to states which had lost their turkey population.

Today there are over 7 million wild turkeys roaming about, which brings up the question: “Where do we get those 10 million turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner?”   There are turkey farms everywhere, with turkeys being raised domestically to be killed and processed for the Thanksgiving season.  

The bison escaped extinction, and so did the turkey, fortunately. There’s little hunting of bison anymore, but turkey hunting is one of the most rewarding of outdoor experiences.  Before daybreak, the pre-dawn stillness is enrapturing.  The distinct sound of the gobbler resonates as a hen flies in to investigate the decoys.

As daylight begins to emerge, the gobblers appear for dialogue with the hen.  A well-timed shot gives you a memorable experience, as one only gets from an emergence into nature in early morning.

On Thanksgiving Day, I will be thankful for the turkey comeback and thankful, too, for the opportunity to stalk a wily, wild turkey.





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