Wild turkeys are fast on their feet and often flee from danger by running instead of taking to the air.
They can however fly quite fast and as each box opened on a private tract of land in Titus County, TX, the flying ability of the wild turkey was on display.
Marked with the logo of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), these six boxes held six Eastern turkey hens captured in Missouri and transported to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials at the Dallas-Forth Worth Airport.
Working together on restoring the Eastern turkey to East Texas, TPWD and NWTF have forged a powerful partnership that saw hope for this subspecies in the region literally taking flight.
According to TPWD Turkey Program Director Jason Hardin, there are now about 10,000 Eastern turkeys in the region thanks to stocking birds from partner states like Missouri and enhanced management on public and private lands.
It’s a brilliant conservation program and one that has inspired turkey hunters and private landowners to do more to manage forests for turkeys.
This particular turkey release, however, inspired another group of people.
Higher Calling Wildlife’s mothership is the Wild Wishes program that grants wildlife encounters to children with a critical illness or loss of a parent or sibling. To date, the outreach has granted 115 wishes and is working on many more.
“We filmed the release with our smartphones and put together a virtual turkey release for one of our wish families. They have been basically shut-in since COVID started because of health issues with children, so we wanted to do something special for them. We knew they would love seeing the turkeys released, and TPWD and NWTF officials have been very gracious in allowing us to have our kids participate in these releases,” said Lisa Moore, director of the Wild Wishes program.
Emily Odom, 16 of Graham, TX, got to participate in a release in 2020 on the same property and said it was one of our her life highlights.
“I’ve been in the Wild Wishes program since I was nine, and it changed my life so much for the better. Getting to open that box and watching those turkeys fly out was so freeing and inspiring for someone like myself who has had some challenges. I loved it,” she said.
It inspired her so much in fact she went home and did some wild turkey artwork and has begun a program to raise awareness of wildlife conservation through artwork.
“That turkey release helped inspire that. I’m so grateful to the Moore’s for taking me into the Wild Wishes program years ago and for NWTF and TPWD for letting me be part of a release,” she said.
As Emily said, there is something special about seeing those turkeys fly out of the boxes into an area that needs a population boost. East Texas by the early 1980s was essentially devoid of wild turkeys, but thanks to TPWD and NWTF, there is a growing population.
That’s inspirational for turkey hunters, wildlife lovers and a very special group of kids who have been able to take part in person and virtually.