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Let’s Talk Turkey

nce upon a time it was unusual to see a wild turkey. And that was just 30 - 40 years ago! During the 19th century the wild turkey population was just about extinct due to farming practices that clear-cut forests in much of the state. The comeback has been nothing short of historic in the field of wildlife management. According to Mark Scott, Director of Wildlife for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, "The revival of the birds in Vermont grew from the release of tur-

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keys in Rutland County during the winters of 1969-70 and 1970-71. A total of 31 were released during that time. The state now has a population estimated at 45,000 to 50,000 birds from one end of the state to the other." In the 1960s, a Vermont biologist who once worked in New York state developed a program that brought the 31 turkeys that had been trapped in New York’s Alleghany and Steuben counties to Pawlet and Hubbardton, according to a history of the program provided by Vermont Fish and Wildlife. The area was considered ideal because of the combination of forests and farm fields littered with cow corn. Within a year, the population was estimated at 150. By 1973 the population had rebounded enough for a limited hunting season in the area where they were first released. New Hampshire began its turkey restoration in the 1970s. Now there are an estimated 35,000 to 45,000 statewide. “There are no empty spaces in the state that need wild turkeys,” said Ted Walski, a turkey project biologist with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. And Vermont has helped other states in the region and beyond restore or build

In this circa 1970 photo provided by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, Game Warden Ross Hoyt, left, and biologist Joseph Artmann release a wild turkey in Saxtons River at a time when they were almost gone from the Vermont countryside. (Photo: John Hall/ Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department via AP)

their populations, sending turkeys to places including Maine, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Canada and Germany.“I think people like to see turkeys whether they hunt them or not,” said Scott whose agency oversees Vermont’s spring and fall turkey hunting seasons. According to what traditionally is known as "The First Thanksgiving," the 1621 feast between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony contained waterfowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash. William Bradford noted that, "besides waterfowl and cider, there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many." Many of the foods that were included in the first feast (except, notably, the seafood) have since gone on to become staples of the modern Thanksgiving dinner. Early feasts of the Order of Good Cheer, a French Canadian predecessor to the modern Thanksgiving, featured a potluck dinner with freshly-hunted fowl, game, and fish, hunted and shared by both French Canadians and local natives. The use of the turkey in the USA for Thanksgiving precedes Lincoln's nationalization of the holiday in 1863. Alexander Hamilton proclaimed that no "Citizen of the United States should refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day," and many of the Founding Fathers (particularly Benjamin Franklin) had high regard for the wild turkey as an American icon, but turkey was uncommon as Thanksgiving fare until after 1800. By 1857, turkey had become part of the traditional dinner in New England. Fall 2017

4 Legs & a Tail Lebanon Fall 2017