Turkey Facts for Thanksgiving

Here is a quick hunting quiz:  What challenging Nevada game bird can fly up to 60 miles an hour and has eyesight and hearing sharp enough to spot hunters from great distances?  Not sure?  Does the phrase “gobble, gobble” help? 

That’s right; one of the toughest game birds in Nevada is actually the wild turkey.  Shawn Espinosa, Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) game biologist, points to several attributes that make the turkey such a formidable target.  

“They possess all the skills necessary to evade a hunter,” said Espinosa. “They can achieve flight of up to 60 miles an hour. They are exceptionally fast runners. They have excellent eyesight and tremendously good hearing.  They usually group in large numbers and are very difficult to entice within gun range.”  

Wild turkeys were first introduced to Nevada in 1960, but the program was not successful until the late 1980s when NDOW began releasing the Rio Grande subspecies of wild turkey.  Nevada’s two species of turkeys include Merriam’s and Rio Grande, which can be found in areas throughout the entire state. 

“The most popular place has traditionally been the Mason Valley Wildlife Management Area,” said Espinosa. "In the southern part of the state, the Moapa Valley and Lincoln County hunts are very popular as well.”  For more information about hunting wild turkey in Nevada visit ndow.org.   

Fun Turkey Facts 

  • Ben Franklin believed the turkey should be the official U.S. bird. Franklin said that the turkey, although "vain and silly", was a better choice than the bald eagle, whom he felt was a coward.  
  • Since 1947, the National Wild Turkey Federation has presented a live turkey and two dressed turkeys to the President. The President does not eat the live turkey. He "pardons" it and allows it to live out its days on a historical farm.  
  • The male turkey is called a tom. Adult males are referred to as gobblers. Young males are jakes. Baby turkeys are called poults and are tan and brown.   
  • The heaviest turkey ever was domestic, weighed 86 pounds and was about the size of a large dog.  
  • An average of forty-five million turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving, 22 million are eaten each Christmas, and 19 million are eaten each Easter.