Eastern Wild Turkeys - Love Story - Updated and **PICS**

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by Capt. Crusoe, Oct 26, 2008.

  1. Capt. Crusoe

    Capt. Crusoe Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 16, 2007
    McHenry County, IL
    New comments, email & pics added.
    In the event any of you readers are thinking of raising Wild Turkey Poults - Be ready for lots of hours, heartbreak, tears, love and joy.
    Last spring my wife and I came across a Wild Turkey on her nest in our back woods, each day we would pass at a distance to see if she was still sitting or if we could hear peeps in the forest. We lucked out, within a week of our find - 17 poults were trailing, tripping and falling behind a large hen. (One egg never hatched or she abandoned it) She moved them to our brush/log pile and we could see them exploring from a distance. On the third day we no longer saw them and went searching. We found the remnants of the hen but no sign of the poults. We thought coyotes or our resident fox had eaten all. The following morning we spotted one poult at the edge of the brush pile. Upon approaching - it dashed into the cavity of a small hollow log. Investigating - the poults had taken refuge within the log and Mom paid the price along with two of the little ones. We gathered the 15 up and brought them to our barn. They seemed lethargic from the cool spring day but quickly put them into a box with a troublelight for warmth until I could purchase a heat lamp. All this was done in hoping to raise them & release all back to the wild. WOW! Never thought it possible to fall in love with Wild Turkeys but just couldn't help it. Raising them was lots of work! Pen building, constant feeding of crickets from our local pet store, redworms and fresh greens pulled daily from wild carrot in our field. We also supplemented their food intake with Wild Turkey Starter and as they grew switched to Wild Game Bird Feed we purchased locally. Caring for the runt (we named "Gracie") was added duty and many sleepless nights. Neither of us had ever raised a baby chick more or less a clutch of poults. We spent countless hours of guided walks, taking all into the forest to teach where to forage and find water. This all was not without incident - two poults killed by raccoons, 6 killed by marauding wild mink. Raising them was like having a band of unruly wild teenagers. They were amusing, loving and always seeing how many could pile on top of us or sit on our heads. The bigger they got the fewer that climbed aboard. We did keep them away from all other humans, plus we never spoke around them using whistles and notes passed between us. Once they were large enough to be in the outdoor pen (within 3 – 4 weeks) they were never in the barn again. Also, we never took them close to a house or vehicle. We thought all these precautions were key to keeping them as wild as possible.
    At 9 weeks we taught them to sleep in the grove near our prairie. Though we think they were teaching us more than we ever taught them. It seems as if most of their instinct was innate and carried over from the generations of Wild Turkeys before them. The first couple of nights - I strapped myself to a tree using a ladder as support and spent the night with poults huddled around me. After the first few days they knew to return to those trees in the evening, though for several nights I did stay with them until they were comfortable in their perch positions high within the limbs. Two days before they left home - they were more obstinate than ever, not wanting to return from our walks in the woods. Finally the day came, I had left for a job out of town and Elaine (my wife) had taken them out to forage as she does all the time. I received the following email from her:

    Hi Hon...

    The kids left home... but I saw them this morning! AMEN!

    I took the seven out yesterday morning... I walked out to the grove and the kids were already down and foraging on the trail leading into the prairie. They followed me down the trails and did not linger long in any one spot as they usually do. When we got to the knoll in the back where they love to take dirt baths, I stopped again, but they wanted to go on to the woods! I just had a feeling that this would be it... the past 2-3 weeks they have really been showing their independence. It has been very difficult to get them back to the grove or to come to the pen to eat.

    The biggest male had a game he played with me the past couple of weeks when they were in the run. When I would lean over to put down food or water, he would quickly peck at my barrette and take it out of my hair! There would be a few seconds of keep-away and then I would take it back. Well, as we were on the knoll, that male came and stood next to me... I didn’t know what he wanted, so I made the noise I use which ask him if he wanted to be petted and as I leaned down to pet him, he stole my barrette! I got it back and then he turned with the rest and headed toward the forest. I went with them... put on my mosquito netting. They went to the rock pile and pecked around for bugs... a couple flew up into the trees. So, I left them there, which is what I have been doing!

    When I came back later (after you called), they had moved a little farther into the woods... they would not come with me. I asked God to watch each one and keep them safe, as the tears were streaming down my face! How did we fall in love with wild turkeys???

    If I looked at the field once I looked at it hundreds of times all day long, looking for any sign of them, but there was none. I went out several times and walked to the forest edge, but saw nothing.

    I left the food and water in their pen, just in case they came back, but I closed it at nightfall so that no other animal would get in there!

    As soon as it was light enough this morning, I walked out to the forest area... it took a while, but I found them at the area where you walked them to that tree! I talked to them and then left, but they stayed!

    I SO hope that they continue to hang around so you can see them! BUT, they made it through the first night.... may it continue! As much as it hurts to have them leave, we did our job! Just hope that they don’t become someone Thanksgiving Dinner!


    It has been nearly two months now since the kids left home. The 7 returned to the wild and hopefully will stay close within our woods. We see them maybe early morning once a week foraging at the edge of the woods but any approach by us - they look but then turn and vanish. I thought they would always come to me no matter what - very sad to have them turn their backs - but I guess we did what we had set out to do. I'll keep you posted if they ever return. By the way – Gracie, the runt we hand fed and sat up with for countless hours - never made it - she was one of the 6 that were killed by the mink – I sobbed for two days.
    I was asked if we would ever do it again – maybe not in the near future – but yes I would definitely do it again if opportunity ever presented itself. It was the most rewarding 5 months in the past several years. I would normally spend countless hours doing the mechanical hobby things with nowhere near the rewards and personal satisfaction with a project such as this. We did keep a daily written & photo journal of the poults progress and mainly of the mistakes we made which cost the lives of a few poults. Nature can be very cruel but survival of the fittest hopefully will keep the species around forever.
    Photos attachments:
    1.) Kids in their favorite tree
    2.) I think they like me. [​IMG]
    3.) Coming in for a Landing
    4.) Flight School Paid Off - Beautiful!
    5.) Jenny Profile
    6.) Jake Profile
    7.) First time seeing running water (creek)
    8.) Last Time we were with them 9/11/2008

    Last edited: Nov 9, 2008
  2. the simple life

    the simple life Chillin' With My Peeps

    Wow! What an amazing story. You two did a wonderful thing and I give you credit.
    Its hard when something you love is no longer part of your life and I feel for you.
    I hope you have many future sightings of your kids and they do well.
  3. PeeperKeeper

    PeeperKeeper Chillin' With My Peeps

    Awesome Adventure. [​IMG]
  4. sweetshoplady

    sweetshoplady Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 4, 2008
    Venice, Florida
    Wow! How good of you to take over for their mama.

    And [​IMG]
  5. Struttn1

    Struttn1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 4, 2008
    Southern Illinois
    Very cool story. It brought back memories from my orphaned wild mallards this summer. They never did take to being approached by us. When it was time for them to fledge I took them down to the watershed pond at the edge of my property and turned them loose. They stayed in hiding until one by one they all learned to fly and left. I was sad to see them go but they were such a mess to be kept penned in the backyard that it was also a relief.

    I said never again but I am betting the next time somebody calls about some orphans that need a home I would venture to say they will probably end up at my house. I only regret not contacting the local wildlife biologist and having him band them before we set them free.
  6. nhnanna

    nhnanna Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2008
    The chicken coop
    [​IMG] What a nice thing you did for them.
  7. ChanceRider

    ChanceRider Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 19, 2008
    Somerset, CA
    Thanks so much for posting of your experience.... I'll admit right now that I'm a sappy ol' girl and was in tears by the end of your tale. The same story, in blog form (?) with pics of the highlights (and lowlights?) would be great!

    Here's wishing you many sightings in the future!
  8. Capt. Crusoe

    Capt. Crusoe Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 16, 2007
    McHenry County, IL
    I did add a photo of the kids taken on 09/11/2008 - the last day we were with them - to my original post via the “edit feature”. When I look at our photo album with all the photos, (several weekly) they make me smile. I also had a few professionally printed and framed for my office. Great memories! One of our friends lives near the city of Chicago and is a financial advisor. He took one of the photos we sent him, of a few of the kids in flight and projected onto a screen for all attending the meeting he was having. He asked all at the meeting to identify this bird (which was an excellent shot of a wild turkey in flight) NO ONE identified the bird and most were amazed to hear Wild Turkeys Fly! (So much for Chicagoans’ knowledge) These birds were truly a blessing. Oh yes, in case anyone is wondering - I did go to the IDNR web site and purchase a Wild Game Bird Breeder License. They had two available - one if you were going to raise and sell the game birds and one for non-sellers. Needless to say - I was a non-seller! Thanks to all who replied to my post.
  9. MissPrissy

    MissPrissy Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

    May 7, 2007
    Forks, Virginia
    I am very reluctant to let my turkeys out at this time of the year. Sad to say that even though a couple are for Thanksgiving dinner the idea of a hunter taking one or more of them while they are out ranging breaks my heart. I hope your turkey friends avoid the T-Day hunters.
  10. ams3651

    ams3651 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 23, 2008
    NE PA
    wonderful story and [​IMG] It drives us nuts when even on nature shows they say wild turkeys dont fly.

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