Although Pilgrims likely didn't have turkey as the main course during the world's first Thanksgiving feast, turkeys and Thanksgiving are hard to separate this time of year. But before the 1930s, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department says wild turkeys were non-existent. Chris Foy has more on the rarely told history of the bird.
The department recognized the Cowboy State's potential as a viable habitat for the wild turkey and worked out a plan to introduce the bird. Then came a bargain, which long outlasted its value for future generations. In 1935, Game and Fish trapped some sage grouse – which at the time were in abundance throughout the state – and traded the grouse with New Mexico for 15 wild turkeys.
The birds were released in the Laramie Peak area and in the span of ten years, the species flourished to more than 1,000 wild turkeys. Game and Fish touts the story of the growth of the species as a wildlife management success story, one that is appreciated by hunters during biannual turkey hunts in the fall and spring.
Game and Fish later transplanted more than 30 turkeys from the Laramie Peak flock to the Black Hills area in the 1950s and purchased another 15 birds from New Mexico. Within a few years, the species had grown at such a pace to be able to sustain hunters during the first turkey hunting season in the Black Hills. The rest is history.
Last fall, Game and Fish says close to 2,000 hunters harvested 1,108 turkeys in Wyoming. And this spring, more than 4,500 hunters harvested 2,467 turkeys.