Turkey hunting is wildly popular, with millions of hunters heading to the woods each year in pursuit of this wily game bird. But the sport of turkey hunting looks nothing like it did 40 years ago, and there are several factors which have contributed to this growth. Let’s take a look four of the primary reasons.
1.) There Are More Turkeys
In the 1970s there were an estimated 1.5 million wild turkeys in the United States. Today the estimate is more than 7 million. This is due in part to the hard work of state departments of natural resources. Many states have had significant successes with turkey restocking. For example, Iowa began stocking wild turkeys in the early 1970s. By the mid-1980s, there were so many the state was capturing turkeys and trading them to the state of Kentucky in exchange for river otters to use in Iowa’s otter stocking program.
Iowa is just one example of a state that’s well known for its excellent turkey hunting today, as are many states that had little to no wild turkey population just 40 years ago.
2.) Turkeys Are More Accessible
With the increase in turkey numbers comes greater opportunity for more wild turkey hunting. Today, there are turkey hunting seasons in all of the 48 contiguous states plus Hawaii. Anywhere there is good habitat, there are turkeys. Public land and private land have both shared in the bounty. Anyone who wants to hunt turkeys should be able to find a place to hunt with a little effort.
3.) Outdoor TV Has Grown the Sport
In the past 15 years, and explosion of outdoor television programming has put hunting in front of the eyes of millions of people. Turkeys are one of the easiest entry points into hunting. Many people have watched turkey hunting on TV and thought to themselves, man, that looks like fun! With a minimal expenditure, anyone can start hunting turkeys.
4.) The Youth Connection
Because it’s easy to get into, it’s the perfect portal into hunting for youngsters. As soon as a child is able to confidently shoot a shotgun, that child can take to the woods with an adult mentor and have a realistic chance of shooting a turkey each time they go out. Not many segments of hunting can offer that kind of easy entry. Because turkey hunting can be adrenaline charged and kids start young, they often develop a life-long passion for pursuing gobblers.
What Does The Future Hold?
Even with all this good news, turkey hunting has its challenges. According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, nearly 6,000 acres of wildlife habitat are lost daily, mostly due to urban sprawl and development. This has adversely affected the turkey hunting opportunities in some areas. The 250,000-member NWTF is on the front lines of preserving habitat with its “Save the Habitat-Save the Hunt” program, which is committed to the goals of conserving and enhancing 4 million acres of the most critical habitat and adding 500,000 new acres for outdoor sports.
The outlook for turkey hunters is very bright, but there is more work to do.
Follow Bernie’s bowhunting adventures on his blog, bowhuntingroad.com.