Turkey hunting is a sport that is rich in tradition and started long before settlers ever arrived in North America. Using the wingbones of the turkeys themselves, native Americans hunted the wild turkey for food more than 4,000 years ago! Upon arriving in the new land, this very abundant bird was hunted for both food and sport and was part of the first Thanksgiving celebration between the pilgrims and the Massasoit and his Wampanoag braves.
Surprisingly, this magnificent bird was almost made extinct by the early 1900s following a century of habitat destruction and commercial slaughter. By the start of the Great Depression, approximately 30,000 wild turkeys remained.
Today, thanks to the combined effort from our nation's hunters, game agencies and the wildlife conservation organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, there are more than 4.5 million wild turkeys once again roaming the continent in huntable populations in almost every state of the U.S. except Alaska and they are even hunted in Ontario, Canada, and in Mexico. Today, turkey hunting is one of the most popular types of hunting in the U.S. with almost 2.5 million sportsman that consider themselves turkey hunters.
This amazing reversal began around 1937 with the passage of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, which placed an excise tax on firearms, ammunition and other hunting equipment. Lobbied for and supported by sportsmen, this tax raised billions of dollars for the restoration of turkey and other wild game that were in danger such as whitetail deer.
Since 1973, the National Wild Turkey Federation's volunteers and partners have spent more than $83 million to help wildlife agencies trap and relocate turkeys to suitable habitats which has helped to greatly improve the health of our nation's forests and woodlands. This is absolute proof that hunting can do much good for the wildlife and woodlands of America and the rest of the world.