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    • March 28, 2013 11:35 AM EDT
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      Nebraska’s wild turkey population is expanding

      By Rick Windham

      Nebraska’s spring archery season began this week. For turkey hunters in the Cornhusker State, these are the “Good Ol’ Days”. It is unlikely that there have ever been as many turkeys in Nebraska as there are today.

      The reintroduction and growth of Nebraska’s turkey population is a true game management success story. Some people may argue that turkeys may be too successful. There are areas in the state that are almost overrun with these birds.

      Wild turkeys can now be found in every state, but Alaska. Statistically, turkeys are found in more square miles of habitat than any other game bird in North American.

      The wild turkey was native to Nebraska. As far back as 1804, Lewis and Clark reported seeing wild turkeys along the Missouri River in present day Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and South Dakota. The eastern wild turkey subspecies is known to have been native to Nebraska. Some biologists believe that the Rio Grande subspecies may have also been native to Nebraska, particularly the central and western parts of the state. There is evidence that the Rio Grande subspecies had a range that extended north into the south-central plains, at least as far north as Kansas.

      There are no good estimates on how many turkeys were in Nebraska when the first explorers and pioneers moved westward, certainly not as many as there are today. Today’s farming and land management practices create habitat for species like turkeys and whitetail deer. This is one of the reasons both species are growing and expanding.

      As soon as pioneers moved into Nebraska they hunted turkeys for the table. By 1915, turkeys had all but been wiped out in Nebraska. An attempt was made to stock turkeys along the Missouri in 1931, but the project was abandoned because birds to be used in the re-stocking were too hard and too expensive to catch.

      The next attempt to reintroduce turkeys into Nebraska came in 1959. A total of 28 Merriam turkeys were released in the Pine Ridge. These birds had been trapped in South Dakota and Wyoming. Merriam's were not native to Nebraska, but the experiment worked.

      In fact, the results were so good that the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission began work on another release project and released 518 live-trapped Rio Grande turkeys into river bottom habitats in central and south-central Nebraska in 1961 and 1962. Four years later, an estimated 3,000 birds were in the state.

      That was probably the last really accurate count on turkeys in the state. In the last 20 years the populations has exploded. Ask a biologist today how many turkeys there are in Nebraska and they will shrug their shoulders and give you an answer like, “A lot!”

      The spring turkey hunting season is underway. The archery season began Monday. Shotgunners will be able to get into the field April 13. A “youth only” shotgun season begins a week earlier on April 6.


      With the turkey hunting season here, a reader asked if I had a quick and easy recipe for wild turkey. Here is one of my favorites. I call it Wild Turkey Salad, but there’s no whiskey involved in this recipe.

      Since we just finish the spring turkey season, many hunters may be looking for a new recipe. This follows my cooking philosophy of, Quick, Simple, Easy and Good. Here’s what you need to do:


      1 Wild turkey

      1 Large sweet onion

      1 Bottle of Miracle Whip dressing

      1 Small bottle (about 12 ounces) of sweet pickle relish

      1 Small bottle (about 12 ounces) of yellow mustard


      · Roast and remove all the meat from the turkey carcass

      · Slice, dice, chop the turkey into ¼ inch pieces, or less

      · For every pound of turkey meat, mix in one cup of Miracle Whip, one cup of relish and one tablespoon of mustard

      · Slice, dice, chop the onion (one onion will work for about two pounds of turkey salad)

      · Salt and pepper to taste

      · Mix thoroughly

      Serve on bread for a quick on-the-go sandwich or crackers for a great tasting snack.

      Have a great week outdoors!

      This post was edited by Chris Avena at March 28, 2013 11:37 AM EDT

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