Monday, November 17, 2008

OPINION: This Thanksgiving Eat A Local Turkey

Years ago, you simply didn’t see wild turkeys unless you were lucky. The birds were abundant in New York forest in colonial times but by the early 1800s had been all but hunted out. According to SUNY-ESF:

Reports indicate that wild turkeys were abundant in New York State during the 1600’s. However, the combination of uncontrolled hunting and the intensive clearing of forests resulted in the demise of native populations. In 1844, the last recorded observation of native wild turkeys came from extreme southwestern New York State.


For over a century, the wild turkey continued to be absent from the New York landscape. However, in the late 1940’s, wild turkeys had moved northward from Pennsylvania and were reported again in southwestern New York. Wild turkeys were re-established in New York by 1957, but occupied only the extreme southwest portion of the state. During the same year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation began relocating birds to areas of the state that were capable of sustaining wild turkey populations.

The return of the wild turkey to New York State is truly a success story in the field of wildlife conservation. Wild turkey populations in New York have increased dramatically from an estimated 2,000 in 1959 to over 65,000 in 1990.

Today, it seems turkeys are everywhere. A recent National Wildlife Federation report pointed to the influx of turkeys into suburban areas from Boston to Schenectady County (along with fishers and bears). The population boom means that now is the time to shift toward eating local birds rather then having artificially raised commercial turkeys shipped across the country to your Thanksgiving table. Not enough meat you say? Nonsense. A mature gobbler can stand weigh in at 24 pounds (and stand 4 feet with a 5-foot wing span). The National Wild Turkey federation has a variety of recipe ideas on their website.

If you are not into hunting and don’t know a turkey hunter, try out a local farm-raised bird. At Harvest Hill Farm in Willsboro – (518) 963-1127 – Michael and Laurie Davis sell all-natural pasture raised turkeys (reserve early). At Windswept Meadows Farm in Watertown – (315) 788-1933 – Thomas & Delta Keeney are 3rd generation farmers who plants food crops specifically for turkeys.

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John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




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