Officials with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Louisiana State University and the U.S. Forest Service are conducting a major study of turkeys in the Kisatchie National Forest in west-central Louisiana.
The study is tracking their movements in an area Hurricane Laura devastated in 2020 and also seeing how they respond to large-scale forest recovery and restoration efforts.
Chester Moore is an award-winning wildlife journalist and conservationist. He is Editor-In-Chief of Texas Fish & Game magazine and contributes to Sports Afield, Hunter’s Horn, Deer & Deer Hunting, Tide, The Lakecaster and many others. He is host of “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI and of The Higher Calling podcast.
He is author of fifteen books including Hog Wild: Hog Hunting Facts, Tips & Strategies, Texas Waterfowl and Flounder Fever. Chester is a lifelong hunter and angler who enjoys everything from bowhunting wild turkeys to surf fishing for sharks to fly fishing for rainbow trout.
He was awarded the Advocatus Magni Award in 2020 from the National Wild Turkey Federation for his work with wild turkeys, the Mossy Oak Outdoors Legacy award in 2017 for his work with children and wildlife and was named a “Hero Of Conservation” by Field & Stream magazine. Altogether he has won more than 150 awards for conservation, writing, radio and photography.
On the program Moore will talk about wild turkeys ranging from their life habits o conservation issues.
Follow Chester Moore and Higher Calling Wildlife® on the following social media platforms
Here are some photos of color phase birds, beginning with Dan Williams who submitted this photo from Tyler County. Tyler is one of the counties that does not currently have an Eastern turkey season and is in the extreme southernmost extent of the birds range in Texas.
It’s great to see there are some turkeys there.
This shot shows three of five birds in view with at least partial smoke color phase. The interesting thing about the bird on the right is it is smoke phase but has the standard red head. Many are gray.
Jimmy Jessup sent in this shot from south-central Louisiana. You can see the cinnamon color phase on the back half of this bird. It has the partial coloration of the Merriam’s bearded hen I photographed in Colorado in 2019. In the same area in 2020 I photographed several birds with partial cinnamon color.
David Troyer submitted this shot of his son Nathaniel with the mount of his stunning smoke-colored gobbler taken in Ohio. This is probably the most uniformly-colored smoke phase bird I have seen. Truly sunning.
Corey Anderson who was profiled with his big smoke-colored gobbler in our last article submitted these more recent photos from Minnesota.
This bird looks like an intermediate of the smoke and white phase. What a beauty!
Encountering wildlife is exciting.
Encountering wild creatures rare amongst their own populations is super exciting.
Moby Dick wouldn’t be as cool if he were a standard edition sperm whale, would he?
If you have photos or videos of color phase turkeys, please submit them to email@example.com. We would love to share them with our readers and use them as part of an as yet to be announced educational project that will take place in the spring.
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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.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
That quote from Charles Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities” reflects how I feel about 2020 on a personal level as well as simply being a human on Planet Earth at this very moment.
COVID-19’s impact on our world has been nothing short of historic and there is more to come. I wish I could give a prediction of a quick deliverance from this pestilence along with its human and economic cost but I would be lying.
Early into the pandemic, I explained how it would impact wildlife with everything from poaching running rampant in Africa where science-based, legal hunting and ecotourism were shut down to important wildlife surveys in America being cancelled.
All of that has happened and we will continue our coverage on that topic in 2021.
The business that I work in, the hunting/fishing/wildlife media industry has been ravaged by COVID-19’s economic impact. I’m putting my trust in God for finances going into a new year because things are not looking bright otherwise.
And I knew this would happen the moment I read the word “pandemic” in a World Health Organization Report.
That inspired action.
I don’t do what I do professionally for the great money, because I could make more elsewhere. I don’t do it for the accolades, nor for the fringe benefits of wildlife recreation access although that at times has been abundant.
I do it because I believe in it. Wildlife has been a passion of mine since childhood. A couple of years back my mother found a report from my fourth grade where I said I wanted to be someone who helps endangered wildlife when I grew up.
This is in me.
And it is why me and my wife Lisa founded Higher Calling Wildlife this year. I needed something that could function under a business model of low cost and high effectiveness.
By using investigative journalism and cutting-edge educational strategies, the mission of Higher Calling Wildlife is to raise awareness to mountain and forest wildlife conservation and stream fisheries. It’s free to join (and you can do that by clicking here) and it involves young people.
Me and my wife Lisa have a ministry called Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center and its offshoot the Wild Wishes program. Wild Wishes grants wildlife encounters to children with a critical illness or loss of a parent or sibling. To date we’ve granted 112 wishes ranging from encounters with wolves to giraffes and special days at our small zoological facility.
Teens from the Wild Wishes program who have an interest in conservation are mentored in media and have an opportunity to contribute to the conservation cause through our Higher Calling magazine, e-newsletter and other media platforms.
In our first year, we have put out two of these e-magazines, Issue 1 and our Wildlife of Israel special edition and started our Sheep Scrapbook Project that raises awareness to wild sheep dying of parasite/disease risks from domestic sheep. We are giving out collector’s coins for those who submit photos they have taken of wild sheep in North America.
We posted on four Facebook pages related to hunting and parks and had such a great response we ran out of coins! The second bunch should arrive this week.
There were also some other positives from this year.
My “New Life For New Mexico’s Bighorns” article that was posted here won 1st place in the Texas Outdoor Writer’s Association Excellence In Craft awards for the blog category. We also took 1st in the independent blog category for the Press Club of Southeast Texas along with receiving a total of 13 awards for writing, radio and photography in both media competitions.
Our Turkey Revolution project entered its second year with unprecedented media coverage in publications ranging from Texas Fish & Game to Hunter’s Horn. This year’s goal of photographing an elusive eastern turkey in East Texas happened in April and was documented here.
Here at the end of of 2020, put my faith in Christ, my focus on prayer and hard work and moving forward with the best of my abilities.
There is healing of soul in the mountains, forests and waterways of our world. There is no bad news where eagles soar, trout swim and turkeys gobble.
I have been doing this locally, spending time fishing in a stream near my home and some private ponds at a friend’s property. It has allowed me to clear my head when the news of the day has been frustrating.
I have gotten back into flyfishing this year and have challenged myself to catch a five-pound bass on fly gear. I haven’t hit that mark yet but did get my best flyfishing bass ever-a four pounder.
Talk about fun!
And that’s something we will continue to cover here. Yes, we will have true news as it relates to wildlife but it will be balanced with fun challenges and interesting stories that hopefully inspire as well as educate.
Henry David Thoreau wrote that, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”
I don’t know about the world, but it certain helps preserve my enthusiasm for life.
Stay safe. Stay healthy and venture beyond the pavement into the wild. Great things can still happen there.
The shrill gobble carried across the 1/2 mile stretch of the valley with ease.
Positioned on a tall hill (by East Texas standards) my friend Josh Slone and I were pumped to get a response to our first call and it was loud!
The space between these hills and the creekbed below had been clear cut in the last six months and while that practice has questionable merit, the first year or so of a clear cut provides lots of new growth for turkeys, whitetails, and many other creatures.
This was a better start to the day than a public land hunt the day before where we saw plenty of sign, but no birds. My friend Derek York got a good luck at a gobbler and two hens but that was while he was transitioning between locations and wasn’t ready to take a shot.
The same thing happened to me and Josh here on a private lease as later in the morning after seeing a couple of hens, we decided to move toward where we had heard the gobbler earlier and as soon as we went to stake out the decoy there he was.
At about 1/4 mile away he popped out of the woods and popped right back. A turkey’s vision is astounding and once he saw us we knew there was no chance he was coming back out no matter how much we called.
This was a very special couple of days as we were hunting eastern turkeys in the Pineywoods of East Texas. A limited season for this subspecies exists in a handful of counties where restoration efforts by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) have boosted eastern numbers from near zero to around 10,000.
Restoration efforts continue with “super stockings” that are putting upwards of 80 birds in key locations to see eastern numbers expand in this vastly forested region.
On the way back from day two’s hunt, I realized we had been turkey hunting on Earth Day.
To me, it was a fitting way to celebrate the environment and enjoy God’s creation in a fun, exciting way.
In my opinion, as turkeys go, so do America’s forests.
Where forests have either natural fires or controlled prescribed burns and trees adequate for roosting turkeys thrive. And in those same locations so do many other creatures including species of concern such as indigo snakes, the red-cockaded woodpecker, and gopher tortoises.
The difference is there are no groups willing to spend millions to help woodpeckers or indigo snakes, but there is a group that has hundreds of thousands of members and that spends millions helping turkeys-the NWTF.
Wildlife and its habitat need cornerstone species to inspire people to stand for their existence and proliferation. In the mountains, it’s bighorn sheep and in much of the rest of America’s forests, it’s wild turkeys.
Seeing eastern turkeys on a hunt just 75 minutes from my house in the eastern extremity of Texas was a dream come true. I will be returning numerous times to try and bag a bird and enjoy this pursuit that would have been impossible without the diligent efforts of hunter-conservationists.
I’m not one of those hunters who says that only hunters care about wildlife That’s nonsense. I know many nonhunters who do as well.
But I don’t know any group that has a hardcore contingent of conservationists willing to spend as much money, time, and effort on behalf of wildlife as hunters and fishermen in America.
It’s truly remarkable what this group of people have done for wildlife in the United States and beyond.
That’s why spending Earth Day hunkered down in the brush, calling out to turkeys in East Texas was so fitting for me.
I learned to conserve wildlife through hunting and fishing and to this day it remains a means of connecting with nature, collecting food for the table, and enjoy the outdoors to the max.
Thank God for the planet and for filling the forests of America with wild turkeys.
My life is better thanks to their existence.
Chester’s Turkey Revolution project has hit many media outlets already in 2020 with a message of turkey conservation. Here’s where to find some of the articles and broadcasts.
The Wildlife Journalist® and Higher Calling blog publisher Chester Moore was awarded the National Wild Turkey Federation’s (NWTF) “Advocatus Magni Award” for being an outstanding advocate of wild turkey conservation and hunting.
Moore received the award at the NWTF Texas banquet in College Station, TX and said it a true honor to be recognized by such a prestigious organization and for something he believes in wholeheartedly.
“As turkeys go, so do America’s forests. If we get turkey conservation right then everything from whitetail deer to gopher tortoises and wild sheep benefit,” he said.
In 2019 Moore embarked on a quest to raise awareness to turkey conservation and began by photographing the Grand Slam of turkeys around the nation in one year.
“There’s much more to come. This award inspires me to do even more and explore things like the link between turkeys and sheep in their shared range. It’s going to be a great year,” he said.
The highlight will be taking a group of teen’s from Moore’s Wild Wishes® program into Colorado on a search for wild sheep, turkeys and elk in the mountains.
These Higher Calling Wild Wishes Expeditions will take these young people who have a critical illness or loss of a parent or sibling on a special conservation mission trip to raise awareness to sheep, turkey and elk habitat and conservation issues.
My daughter Faith excitedly proclaimed those words as she cracked open a box and released an Eastern turkey into the wilds of Titus County, TX.
We went to document the release for this blog and Texas Fish and Game and she got a chance to participate courtesy of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) and National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).
To say she was pumped was an understatement.
This bird was one of 21 brought in from Missouri over a two-day span to kick-off what TPWD calls a “super stocking”.
A “super stocking” involves releasing a minimum of 80 turkeys at each site over time with the ideal ratio of three hens for each gobbler.
In the past, TPWD released smaller numbers in area but have over the last decade went to larger stockings and are seeing more success.
“It’s the same old story,” said TPWD turkey program director Jason Hardin.
“The birds were essentially wiped out by subsistence and market hunting along with extensive habitat loss in the later parts of the 19th century, but with the help of the NWTF, we have been able to bring the birds back all across the country. Although more than 50 counties in East Texas were stocked during the 1980s and 1990s only 28 counties are open for turkey hunting today. So we had to start looking at why we were not as successful in keeping the Eastern wild turkey population flourishing as other states in its historic range.”
I have been talking turkey with hunters in East Texas since these super stockings began and have many reports of increased turkey numbers in the counties where they have taken place.
Stockings attempts in the 1970s involved releasing Rio Grande birds as well as pen-raised Easterns but both failed to gain traction.
Now TPWD only releases wild-caught Eastern turkeys from states like Missouri, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina.
They give a $500 donation to participating state wildlife programs for each bird that comes from upland game bird stamp sales. Transportation and other fees are covered by NWTF.
For an extremely in-depth discussion on this topic listen to the podcast of my radio program “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI as I talk with Annie Farrell of NWTF.
In March 2019 I began a quest to capture quality photographs of Rio Grande, Merriam’s, Eastern and Osceola turkeys-all within 2019.
The idea is to raise awareness to turkey conservation. I call this project Turkey Revolution!
Hunters (like myself) call this quest the Grand Slam.
And while I took a few hunts this year including bagging my first eastern in New York, this quest is to document with a camera these great birds and to share the experiences through my various media platforms like this blog, Texas Fish & Game, Newstalk AM 560 KLVI and The Wildlife Journalist®.
I happy to announce I wrapped up year one of this adventure in Colorado photographing Merriam’s turkeys.
I got photos of numerous birds there including a very special one-a cinnamon-colored bearded hen you can see a brief clip of in the video below.
Also check out this photo of another beautiful Merriam’s I found in Colorado and a shot of a distant flock I got on a return trip in October on a snow-covered mountain.
This has been a truly exciting adventure and 2020 looks to be equally as interesting as we are in touch with the top biologists, wildlife managers and hunters around the nation on the issue of turkeys.