WOODS ‘N’ WATER: How about just a little more Tomfoolery?

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: How about just a little more Tomfoolery?


For myself and many others, wild turkeys were once nothing more than a word or a wild bird that could be seen and hunted in other states like New York.

Oh, I knew that at one time wild turkeys thrived here in Connecticut, but many times their numbers declined as man encroached on their territory. This can be seen in many cases of wildlife history.

In my school years, I did learn that the native wild turkey was prime fare along with other wild game for the pilgrims and others who came after them for consumption. But that was as far as it went when it came to knowing about the wild turkey. I really never gave them much thought.

And then back in the 1980s, when I started to pen my Woods ‘n’ Water columns, I started to explore the more northern parts of Connecticut, especially in the Cornwall, Kent and Sharon area. It was on one of these trips that I thought I was seeing things when I spotted a small flock of huge birds in a small lot in back of a home in Cornwall.

I turned my truck around and went back to the field to get a better look. I wasn’t seeing things. It was a small flock of wild turkeys! To say that I was excited at such a sight would be an understatement.

Previously, I had heard that the CT DEP Wildlife Division was attempting to bring the wild turkey back to Connecticut, but never really never thought anything of it — until that moment. Little did I know it would change my outdoor world forever.

I started to look into the Wildlife Division wild turkey restoration program and was amazed at what I found. In the winter of 1974-1975, 17 female and five male wild turkeys were trapped in New York and transported to Connecticut for release by what was then the Connecticut DEP.

Canaan Mountain in Canaan was selected because it appeared that the area contained suitable turkey habitat. A mild winter helped the flock survive and even reproduce to an estimated 40 wild turkeys from the original 22 from New York. After that, it did not take long for wild turkey sightings to begin to take place in other towns.

in the winter of 1977-78, wildlife biologists began live-trapping wild turkeys to be transferred to other Connecticut sites. It looked like the re-established Connecticut wild turkey population was here to stay.

I was reminded of this the other day when I spotted three wild male turkeys — I call them the “Three Amigos” — on my way to the Meriden Dog Park. They even caught the attention of our 10-pound terror, “Charlie.”

They were in full strut even though there were no hens to show off for. A male turkey, also called a “Tom” or “Long Beard,” in full strut trying to attract the attention of a hen turkey is really something to see. They puff up their feathers and fan their tail to make them look like the type of male turkey any hen would be glad to mate with.

There is also a lesser, younger male called a “Jake,” and while he may be feeling his oats when it comes to taking a hen as a partner, he knows better than to mess with the larger male turkeys in the flock. I have seen this show many times in my trips afield hunting wild turkeys.

The male turkeys sport what is called a “beard,” which is a growth of hair-like feathers on its breast. The adult male’s beard may reach a length of 10 inches or more, while a Jake will show one that is three inches or better in length.

It is also interesting to note that sometimes a hen may show a beard, but most often it is more scraggly looking than that of a male turkey.

In the spring turkey hunting season, only the males may be harvested, but in the fall of the year turkeys of either sex may be tagged.

In the spring of the year, mating becomes serious business for the male turkeys and, on occasion, I have witnessed a couple of males going at it and, I have to tell you, the feathers were flying.

On one of my spring hunts, I downed a huge Tom turkey and was surprised to see another Tom completely ignore the sound of my shotgun shot as it ran over to the now dead Tom and started to beat it up with his feet. I took two Tom turkeys that day.

Here in Connecticut, the spring season for hunting male wild turkeys begins on April 26 and ends May 27. Believe it or not, you are allowed a total bag limit of five bearded turkeys, and they may be taken on either private or state land, or a combination of both with the proper permits.

Wild turkey hunters must have a valid Firearms or Small Game and Deer Archery permit, plus a Resident Game Bird Conservation Stamp.

Hunting hours are from a half-hour before sunrise until sunset. I have found the morning hunts to be the most enjoyable when you are in the woods as they become alive with the sounds of various wildlife.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters and first responders wherever they may be serving this great country of ours.