Pro Staff Blog

NWTF Aids in Turkey Restoration Throughout North America


EDGEFIELD, S.C. The once rare gobble of the wild turkey is becoming more abundant in areas across North America, thanks to the work of the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Making Tracks program.

During the past year, wildlife agencies with support from the NWTF have relocated 1,958 wild turkeys to suitable habitat in 14 states and one Canadian province. A total of 69 Gould’s, 393 Merriam’s, 1,355 Rio Grandes and 141 Eastern wild turkeys were released.

“Achieving success through the Making Tracks program has been a huge collaborative effort,” said Robert Abernethy, NWTF’s assistant vice president of agency and outreach programs. “But the state agencies and our NWTF volunteers are getting results, and we’re not stopping here. We will keep working so that more people will have opportunities to see and hear these beautiful birds in the wild.”

Making Tracks is a cooperative program between the NWTF and state, federal and provincial wildlife agencies to restore wild turkeys to all suitable habitat across North America. Since the 1950s, more than 195,000 wild turkeys have been moved into appropriate habitat.

Pushed to the brink of extinction in the early 20th century, wild turkeys have undergone a strong resurgence over the past several decades thanks to the vigilant work of state wildlife agencies and the NWTF. Today, the wild turkey population stands at more than seven million, and their numbers have doubled since 1990.

In areas where they are abundant, wild turkeys are usually trapped via nets propelled or dropped over a feeding flock. Trapped birds are individually placed in specialized transport boxes, and then released in suitable areas with few or no wild turkeys.

The NWTF routinely provides trapping equipment and transfer boxes, and helps coordinate wild turkey transfers between states, provinces, Native American tribes and nations. NWTF Hunting Heritage Super Fund dollars and corporate partners help fund these projects.

The NWTF Hunting Heritage Super Fund program pools money raised at Hunting Heritage banquets, donated by corporate sponsors, and given to benefit wildlife conservation. Since 1985, the NWTF and its cooperators have spent more than $286 million upholding hunting traditions and conserving nearly 14 million acres of wildlife habitat.

“The Making Tracks program is making big improvements nationwide, having helped transfer wild turkeys to areas throughout North America,” Abernethy said. “Congratulations to all the state wildlife professionals and the NWTF volunteers that have been part of this successful program.”

NWTF: Making Tracks

During the past year, wildlife agencies with support from the NWTF have relocated 1,958 wild turkeys in 14 states and one Canadian province.

Since the 1950s, more than 195,000 wild turkeys have been moved into appropriate habitat.

Projects completed through the Making Tracks program in the last year include:


39 Merriam’s wild turkeys were moved within the province in 2008 and 2009. The Eastern Slopes Turkey Trackers NWTF Chapter moved the birds from the Lees Lake area near Pincher Creek to a site on private land near Turner Valley, which is close to Wildlife Management Unit 406.


69 Gould’s wild turkeys were transferred to southeastern Arizona’s Pinaleño Mountains and Galiuro Wilderness Area. This was the largest number of Gould’s wild turkeys ever transferred within the state. Forty-nine of the turkeys were released into the Galiuro Wilderness Area and 20 were trapped in the Chiricahua Mountains and released in the Pinaleño Mountains.

Arizona 34 Merriam’s wild turkeys were transferred within Yavapai County, Ariz.


85 Rios were captured in Utah and released on Game Management Unit 13B in northwestern Arizona’s Mohave County.


46 Eastern wild turkeys were captured and moved in-state.


193 Rios were trapped in suburban areas and moved to sites with existing turkey populations including the Knoxville Wildlife Area in Napa County, Spenceville Wildlife Area in Nevada and Yuba counties and Cache Creek Wildlife Area in Lake and Colusa counties. Fifty-nine wild turkeys also were moved to multiple sites in Nevada.


67 Merriam’s wild turkeys and 26 Rios were moved within the state.


156 Merriam’s wild turkeys that were trapped in the Panhandle region of Idaho and 23 Merriam’s that were trapped in southwestern Idaho were sent to the Cecil Andrus WMA in Washington County. Eleven hens were fitted with collars to help with a hen mortality study conducted by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Members and volunteers are essential to forwarding the NWTF’s mission of conserving wildlife habitat and preserving the hunting tradition.


The NWTF and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks conducted a research project involving approximately 90 wild turkeys in the Lovewell, Webster and Cedar Bluff wildlife areas. The Lovewell Wildlife Area is located in northern Kansas’ Jewell County; the Webster Wildlife Area is in northwestern Rooks County; and the Cedar Bluff Wildlife Area is in western Trego County.


47 Eastern wild turkeys were trapped and transferred in-state. Sixteen of those birds were released in Machiasport; 31 were released in Ashland; and 14 were released on the Butler Island Wildlife Management Area.


22 Eastern wild turkeys were moved to Cecil County, an area with a low-density population.


26 Eastern wild turkeys were trapped near Baldwin, Wis., and transported to northwestern Minnesota near Erskine.


127 Eastern wild turkeys were captured in-state and released in Coahoma and Quitman counties in the Mississippi River Delta region in conjunction with a research project conducted by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and Mississippi State University.


89 Merriam’s wild turkeys were transferred to sites along the Milk River, west of Glasgow, Mont., in Valley County and to sites near Chinook, Mont., in Blaine County, Havre and the Choteu County area.


59 Rios were released in Carson Valley, Douglas County, Nev. Bob Klotz, NWTF California State Board of Directors member, trapped the turkeys in California.

New Mexico

12 Merriam’s wild turkeys were moved within New Mexico from the Sacramento Mountains to Guadalupe Mountain in Lincoln National Forest.


273 birds were trapped and released in suitable occupied habitat.


Pennsylvania Game Commission personnel and NWTF volunteers captured 358 jakes and gobblers in 2009 for a statewide study of gobbler harvest rates and survival. The turkeys were trapped and released at their capture sites in more than 50 counties. This was the fourth and final year of the research project.

South Dakota

65 Merriam’s wild turkeys were trapped for research and released in the northern Black Hills region of South Dakota in Lawrence and Pennington Counties. Forty-one hens and 14 gobblers were trapped in Grant County and released in Clark County.


41 Eastern wild turkeys were moved within Tennessee. Of those birds, 11 jakes, nine hens and one longbeard were trapped in Rutherford County and transferred to Meigs County. In Clarksville in Montgomery County, 10 gobblers, or male wild turkeys, eight hens and two jakes were trapped and were released in northeastern Montgomery County.


19 Rios were moved from Concho County to habitat near Brownsville in Cameron County, Texas.


700 turkeys were moved to bolster existing populations and expand into currently unoccupied habitat.


The NWTF assisted in trapping and releasing Merriam’s wild turkeys in Crook and Weston counties and fitting an additional 60 to 70 gobblers with radio transmitters as part of an ongoing gobbler mortality study in the Black Hills region of Wyoming.

For more information about the NWTF visit or call (800) THE-NWTF.

About the NWTF: In 1973, Tom Rodgers founded the National Wild Turkey Federation in Fredericksburg, Va., as a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit conservation and education organization with a mission dedicated to conserving wild turkeys and preserving hunting traditions. Shortly thereafter, Rodgers relocated the NWTF to Edgefield, S.C., where it’s still headquartered today.

At the time NWTF was established, there were only 1.3 million wild turkeys. Today that number stands at more than seven million birds throughout North America, thanks to the efforts of state, federal and provincial wildlife agencies, the NWTF and its members and partners.

Growth and progress define the NWTF as it has expanded from 1,300 members in 1973 to nearly a half million today. With that growth has come impressive strides in wildlife management as the NWTF has forged dynamic partnerships across the country to further its conservation mission. Together, the NWTF’s partners, sponsors and grassroots members have raised and spent more than $286 million upholding hunting traditions and conserving nearly 14 million acres of wildlife habitat.

While wild turkey restoration is nearing completion, the NWTF still has much work to do. Across North America, supporters are working to enhance habitat for wild turkeys and other wildlife while providing hunters with more opportunities and access to public and private land. In addition, NWTF volunteers and partners are introducing youth, women and people with disabilities to the outdoors through special educational events.

If you would like to become a member of Team NWTF, join a committee or start a chapter, please visit our Web site at or call us at 800-THE-NWTF.

Kevin Paulson

Kevin Paulson is the Founder and CEO of His passion for Hunting began at the age of 5 hunting alongside of his father. Kevin has followed his dreams through outfitting, conservation work, videography and hunting trips around the world.

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