Pennsylvania Game News - May 2020 - 27

to building Pennsylvania's wild turkey
population. But they still had to work
around turkey-farm birds they all knew
weren't the answer.
By the early 1960s, it was clear that
maturing habitat in sections of Penn's
Woods could support more wild turkeys,
but established populations hadn't the
means to leapfrog into this better range,
which often was isolated by patches of
poor habitat, or development.
While wild birds could be trapped
and transferred into these areas, the pen
traps the agency used at the time were
somewhat inefficient. From 1956 through
1961, pen trapping captured only 198 turkeys for transfer. But when Wunz started
using a cannon net to capture turkeys, in
its first year, it captured almost as many
turkeys as had been taken in the previous
four years of pen trapping.
Through the 1960s, about 650 turkeys
were trapped and transferred. In the early
years, most went to Bedford, Franklin,
Fulton, Juniata and Perry counties, which
historically had supported the state's core
population, but where turkeys recently
had started to lose ground.
During this fieldwork, Perry County
was shut down to game-farm turkey
stockings and received only wild-trapped
birds; releases were completed in 1962.
Within a few years, the turkey population
started to grow, particularly in western
Perry County.
That wild turkey trap-and-transfer was
so successful, garnered immediate management attention within the agency. By
1966, the Game Commission had adopted
a management plan that called for placing
wild-trapped birds in every county of the
Commonwealth with habitat capable of
sustaining wild turkeys.
Game-farm birds weren't permitted to
be stocked one year before or after any
MAY 2020	

county received trapped-and-transferred
turkeys. Game-farm birds also couldn't be
stocked in any county with an established
wild population of turkeys.
This refined approach in turkey management shows an understanding that
farm-raised turkeys couldn't serve as
a foundation for a wild turkey population. They were a put-and-take resource,
one that also had the potential to spread
diseases and cheapen the genetic contributions of wild birds.
Biologists weren't the only ones who
got it. A lot hunters did, too. Most saw
the release of farm-raised turkeys where
none existed as a chance for hunters to
take one. Their wildness, however, left a
lot to be desired.
In many cases, these farm birds failed
to go wild. A good number of them often
drifted in farm country until they found a
barnyard that seemed similar to the farm
they left, Wunz reported in the March
1981 Game News. Or, worse they walked
along rural roads, trying to dodge vehicles.
Many a schoolboy coming home on the
bus, spotted a turkey-farm bird and took
off after it as soon as he could grab his
shotgun. Often, it made no attempt to run.

SINKING THE FARM

By 1967, truly wild turkeys could
be found in about half of the Commonwealth's forestland. But even as turkeys
continued to expand in the years that followed, they remained noticeably absent in
some areas, and hunters there sometimes
were reluctant to give up the steady annual
stockings of game-farm turkeys as trapand-transfer efforts continued.
It was an opinion not shared by the
Pennsylvania Chapter of the National
Wild Turkey Federation.
In the chapter's October 1978 issue
of Turkey Talk, editor Bud Erich, of
27



Pennsylvania Game News - May 2020

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