A rarity just a few years ago, now they seem to crop up everywhere, terrorizing city and suburban dwellers alike. They are brazen and aggressive, a virtual feathered crime spree, helping themselves to everything from birdseed to garbage, raising a racket and pecking at shiny things (like your car bumper or the window to your back porch) thinking they see a rival bird.
I know for a fact that they can’t be be too bright. When I was at an outdoor firing range a year ago, a turkey kept wandering around oblivious among the targets.
Last week my husband took a walk through a nearby cemetery in a suburb south of Boston and ran into a flock of 25 of them (yes, he counted). These beasties grow to 20 pounds and, on their tippy toes which they stand on to make an impression, they reach 4 feet, and police advise residents to stay away from them. Feeding them, just for example, makes them more aggressive.
Our local newspaper reported a woman having to take refuge in a Dunkin’ Donuts when one of them came after her. A mail deliverer skipped houses on her route rather than challenge their territorial nature. And they’ve become the source of a spate of calls to police. In one town, the police chief said a a caller reported hearing a woman screaming behind her house. Police determined the screams were coming from female mating wild turkeys.
Wild turkeys are the official game bird in Massachusetts. Here's some wonderful advice from the Missouri Department of Conservation, for anyone who decides to bag one for the Thanksgiving table.
- How to retrieve a downed bird
Wild turkeys don't normally drop over dead and lie still, even when they have received a fatal shot to the head and neck. They flop around on the ground, flapping their wings. As long as his head and neck are down, you've got him. If he's flopping around and his head comes up, get ready to shoot again. Let him finish flopping and lie still before you try to pick him up or tag him. The spurs on an adult gobbler are sometimes more than an inch long. They are sharp and can cut you badly. It's better to put your foot on a flopping turkey's head to restrict his movement than to try to grab a flapping wing or foot.
- How to get the turkey out of the woods
Dead turkeys are often mistaken for turkey hunters who for some reason think they have to wear camouflage to find one. Dressed in camouflage clothing, the hunter blends well with the woods. The warm, freshly killed bird is limp; its wings droop down and its tail fans out. This, combined with the fact that a person and a turkey sound much alike when walking through the leaves, adds up to an extremely dangerous situation. So, to be safe, wrap the bird in hunter orange before carrying it out.