Wild Turkeys Wisconsin Style

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Wild Turkeys Wisconsin Style

Currently, wild turkeys are found in all 72 Wisconsin counties. But it hasn’t always been that way. The restoration of wild turkeys stands as one of the greatest conservation success stories in the history of wildlife management in Wisconsin. The turkey population went from complete absence to a healthy statewide population in 30 years. This successful restoration of wild turkeys to Wisconsin happened when the Wisconsin DNR and the Missouri Department of Conservation worked out an agreement. Missouri, with a healthy population of wild eastern turkeys, basically exchanged turkeys for Wisconsin’s ruffed grouse. It all started in 1976, when 29 turkeys were released in Vernon County, located in southwestern Wisconsin. To help expand the population, within a few years, the WDNR began moving birds from established populations in southwestern Wisconsin and releasing them at suitable sites throughout the southern two-thirds of the state.

For the last five years or so, we have had turkeys wintering in the area where we live. They tend to show up in midwinter and stay around to spring snow melt. This winter there have been about 50 turkeys in the area. It is a mixed flock of hens, jakes (juvenile males) and adult males. They are not around every day, so when you see them, it can make your day. Turkeys will basically eat almost anything, be it seeds, bugs, grubs or plants. That is how they make a living. They eat to stay alive and are extremely wary to not get eaten. In the spring, it is all about scratching out enough to eat and to breed. The entire flock has a pecking order. That order is established almost daily or hourly between hens, jakes and toms. As it gets later in the spring, it gets more rigorous. About 3 weeks ago, two hens fought about 10 feet away from me. They beat each other with their wings, scratch each other with their legs and wrestle with their heads and necks. Unfortunately, I could not get any photos of this fight, as I could not move with a dozen other birds looking on. Bigger jakes will pick on smaller jakes, you feel bad for those smaller birds. This flock has seven adult toms or males. The two top toms do all the strutting and make sure the lesser toms or jakes do not. They will put the run on them to stop it. Last fall, I was able to witness two toms fighting. They would clamp down on each other’s head and wrestle or peck each other in the head. It was a real test of endurance and strength. That fight last 28 minutes. The slightly bigger bird won, but each bird was worn out. It makes for some interesting observations.

They have keen eyesight and their hearing is unbelievable. To get them close, you must be still or move very slowly to not get noticed. You have to use that to your advantage, to get the close photos. It also helps to wear camouflage clothing to blend in. With my situation, I am lucky that I can be patient and get up close photos others cannot. Often these turkeys are within 3 to 4 feet and are unaware of my presence. It is fun just to observe their behavior.

I have been fortunate to be able to get some ridiculously close images of these turkeys. Click below for more information to check out my wildlife collection for these up close images of these wild turkeys, enjoy! My wildlife images are available as prints (framed, canvas, acrylic, metal, wood or posters), greeting cards, throw pillows, tote bags, phone cases, duvet covers, shower curtains, fleece blankets, towels, spiral notebooks and coffee mugs. These products are available at: