Wild Turkey Hunting & Management (Excerpts)
by Lovett E. Williams, Jr.



This book has a resemblance to my Art & Science of Wild Turkey Hunting published in 1989 because I have retained from it some of the photos and a few of my favorite turkey hunting anecdotes, but more has been added than retained and the retained parts have been completely re-written and up-dated.

Added material includes parts of two of my out-of-print books—The voice and vocabulary of the wild turkey and Managing wild turkeys in Florida. I have added topics from After the hunt with Lovett Williams including a chapter on how to make and use a wingbone yelper, and a new chapter on the Gould’s wild turkey based on my work in the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico since 1989. There is also an account of the origin of the Merriam’s wild turkey which I was not aware of when The Art & Science was written. There are also different color illustrations and updated and corrected maps of the wild turkey’s distribution. The compact disk inside the back cover, which is new, presents narrated audio recordings of the calls used in turkey hunting and in calling contests as discussed in the text.

The term management in the title reflects an increased emphasis in the present edition on managing wild turkeys on private land. The advice I offer is based on what I have learned in 50 years of observing, studying, and managing wild turkeys and other wildlife. The focus is on practices to maximize wild turkey numbers but I know that many managers do not wish to go to that extreme. Managers must decide for themselves how much effort and budget can be assigned to wild turkeys and most will prefer to “optimize” turkey numbers rather than “maximize” them.

Some practices used in managing wild turkey populations are helpful to other wildlife but some are not. No land management practice fits all wild species. To insure balance, land managers would benefit from the assistance of a trained and experienced wildlife consultant in drawing up a management plan. The free advice that so abounds in popular publications about wildlife management is worth exactly what it costs.

My management recommendations are heavily flavored with ecological principles. I do not go deeply into agricultural and animal husbandry approaches because they are untested substitutes for the turkey’s real needs. The wild turkey is well suited for life in the natural environment of North America where it evolved. Planted food crops can only supplement what Nature has always provided. It took natural processes millions of years to bring the turkey to where it is today and the best we can do to enhance its well being is to work effectively with Nature. I will attempt to explain how to do that.

Another theme is about how to become a more successful turkey hunter. My goal is to encourage better hunting skills because skill leads to greater hunting success and to greater appreciation of the wild turkey and the great outdoors. Appreciation of wildlife and nature is the fuel of conservation.

My studies of the wild turkey have been mostly in my native state of Florida where eastern and Florida turkey populations meet. Museum taxonomists named certain wild turkey populations as “subspecies” during an era when zoologists believed that subspecies were “mini” species in line to evolve over time into bona fide species of their own. Zoologists have since abandoned the naming of new subspecies because of its false implications. The forum on subspecies of birds published in the journal of the American Ornithologists’ Union (see Weins, 1982 in Literature Cited) explains the present lack of scientific interest in subspecies designations and should be mandatory reading for all professional wildlife people. Continued use of subspecies names in professional writing only sustains out-dated concepts.

Although today’s ornithologists have little interest in subspecies, I use five subspecific names in referencing geographic populations because the names are useful labels in describing the slams of wild turkey hunting and, in that regard we are, after all, dealing with sport, not science.

Literature citations and footnotes are used in scholarly books so that readers can evaluate the validity of ideas presented and to credit other researchers and writers. I have cited sources but only sparingly because citations are distracting to the reader and I don’t think important in a book of this type. I hope no biologist or writer is offended.

I make frequent use of the adverbs usually, almost, normally, mostly, rarely, frequently, and modifying phrases like most likely because I do not know enough about turkeys to use terms such as never and always. Besides, I am not sure there is anything that turkeys always or never do.

I have limited the book to what I know. The literature discussed in the Chapter 11 and listed in Literature Cited can put the reader on the trail to all that has been written about the wild turkey. But I would caution that not all that has been written is true. A book bigger than all those combined would be needed to describe what is not known. When you read, do so with caution, consider the source, and realize that truth has to be discovered--it cannot be created.

As more is learned about the wild turkey, some of my interpretations will be improved upon and some rejected. That’s the way we make progress. Meanwhile, if you find errors in Wild turkey hunting and management, please forgive me and if I am still around and you can find me, bring them to my attention so I won't make the same mistakes again.

I have had a lot of help with my wild turkey studies over the years as you will see from a glance at the Acknowledgements, but any errors you find I made all by myself.

Lovett E. Williams, Jr.
Cedar Key, Florida

Dust Jacket


The turkey known to almost everyone was introduced into captivity by American Indians in central Mexico more than 2000 years ago and is the only domesticated animal of any importance to originate in the Western Hemisphere. The pompous male, in spread-tail strutting posture with his red, white, and blue head has become the symbol of the harvest season and at Thanksgiving time is pictured among pumpkins and corn stacks—two other important food crops of New World origin.

This largest and wariest of the world’s game fowl was almost annihilated as a wild species during the 1800s by unregulated subsistence and market hunting but has responded well to protection and management since the mid-1900s and its numbers are now approaching 6 million and still rising with good populations in Mexico, southern Canada, and every U. S. state except Alaska. The wide availability and mystique of the wild turkey has made its hunting a popular outdoor activity.

The 20-pound bird of the big woods is famous for its elusiveness and is hunted successfully only with the most exacting skills. The skilled wild turkey hunter is stealthy, persistent, astute, and patient. He pursues his sport alone and takes pride in luring his game into gun range by expertly imitating its voice. As the climax of a successful hunt looms near, he expects to fire but a single shot. When he takes aim and clicks off his weapon’s safety in readiness to fire, 99.9 percent of the hunt has already occurred. And with great admiration for his quarry, he will long remember the hunts in which the turkey got away without even being shot at.

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