CHEYENNE - Turkeys and Thanksgiving: It is hard to think of one without the other, and for many hunters, it is the wild turkey that is the all-important quarry during the month of November.
This is the season when many Wyoming hunters go afield in quest for the main component of their Thanksgiving dinner. Even though many hunters have been accustomed to their biannual turkey hunt -- with a spring and fall season –those events were not always possible in Wyoming.
Before the 1930s, Wyoming did not have wild turkeys. Recognizing that Wyoming had some potential turkey habitat, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department worked out a plan to introduce wild turkeys into the state. In 1935, Game and Fish trapped some sage grouse, which Wyoming had in abundance, and traded them with New Mexico for 15 wild turkeys. The department released these turkeys in the Laramie Peak area, and their dramatic increase in population is one of Wyoming’s wildlife management success stories. In a little more than a decade the turkeys flourished in the area and the population exceeded 1,000 birds.
In 1951 and 1952 Game and Fish transplanted 33 turkeys from the Laramie Peak flock to the Black Hills, another 15 from New Mexico and with some birds expanding over from South Dakota -- the Wyoming Black Hills turkeys were on their way. Just four years later, the flock had grown sufficiently to hold the first Black Hills hunting season. Since then, turkeys have been transplanted into likely habitats and now provide hunting opportunity in a number of locations, mostly in northern and eastern portions of the state.
Last fall, an estimated 1,957 turkey hunters harvested 1,108 turkeys in Wyoming. This spring, an estimated 4,714 turkey hunters harvested 2,467 turkeys.
Turkey season is now open in most hunt areas and many of the locations are general license areas. Hunters can purchase general licenses at Game and Fish offices, from license agents and also at wgfd.wyo.gov. Some of the hunt areas close Nov. 30 while others stay open until Dec. 31. Page 26 of the bird regulations lists the season dates for various hunt areas. Turkey licenses are $16 for residents and $72 for nonresidents.
(Contact: Al Langston (307) 777-4540)