As I make my daily commute from my south-central Indiana home to Indianapolis, I quite often see wild turkeys walking the fields and woodlines. Back during my years as director of the Division of State Parks, on my trips from property to property, I would also often see these majestic game birds.
I grew up in the same area I live now. Looking back to childhood, I remember seeing wild turkeys as a somewhat rare thrill, and now I know that the reason I routinely see them as an adult involves more than regularly being exposed to a larger portion of our great state.
While turkeys are abundant now, not so long ago they were extirpated (locally extinct), not only in Indiana, but also in many other states. Getting to where we are today with healthy, vibrant populations took a well-coordinated effort that you can read more about in this guide.
Indiana’s restoration started in 1956 when five wild turkeys obtained from Arkansas were released on the large, forested area of Crane Naval Depot in Martin County. As that fledgling population grew, wildlife biologists with the state’s Department of Conservation (the precursor to the DNR), funded through hunter license fees and what’s now called the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, trapped wild turkeys and transplanted them to new locations throughout Indiana.
The tools and the strategies to restore wild turkeys changed over roughly the next 50 years as biologists learned what worked and what didn’t. In a nutshell, those trap-and-relocate events were repeated numerous times. The amazing results can be seen all over the state, virtually wherever you go.
Good luck in the field, and thanks for all you do for conservation in Indiana.
Director, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
The transition from winter to spring is a magical time and one of the things I love most about Indiana. Mushroom hunting, garden planting, woodland wildflowers, woodcocks calling in my backyard, and male turkeys gobbling … you can’t beat spring!
It is also turkey season! For the last few decades, my husband and I have spent a few days each turkey season pursuing this incredible animal. There are few things more frustrating and more rewarding than chasing turkeys. Being in the woods as a family on a spring morning, watching the sun rise, listening to the birds sing, and hearing that first turkey gobble is an exhilarating experience.
I am not alone in my love of spring turkey season. Every spring, thousands of turkey hunters prepare their gear and practice their calls. Our staff members statewide not only prepare for spring turkey season, but also begin the wildlife and habitat management work that we love to do year-round. Staff conduct prescribed burns, plant sunflower fields, conduct marsh bird surveys, and monitor the populations of species such as the Kirtland’s snake.
It is an honor to work with staff who give tirelessly to our natural resources. Their efforts continue to produce dozens of conservation success stories, such as our turkey restoration efforts described in this year’s feature article. These success stories would not be possible without the support of hunters like you. Thank you for your support in managing our fish and wildlife resources. I wish you all a magical spring and summer!
Director, DNR Fish & Wildlife