Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Turkey terrors on True Crime Tuesday

HALLIE: We’re devoting this True Crime Tuesday before Thanksgiving to wild turkeys.

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.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.


  1. We're getting our revenge. My husband shot two wild turkeys at our farm in the spring, and we'll be having them for dinner on Thursday, smoked on our Weber grill.


    Out in the country the turkeys are much more wary, as are the deer. Not so likely to attack humans, thank goodness.

  2. Yes, wild turkeys have a mind of their own, Hallie. One day I had to stop the car so a mother could lead her brood across the road. Another time when my wife investigated a noise in the woods, she found six poults hopping around. She thought it was cute until the hen went after her. Unfortunately our turkey problem has been solved by the coyotes. Not the best trade off since we have a dog. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at Jungle Red.

  3. Karen: A culinary question. Do you pluck them or do you have to take off the skin, too... just hypothetically.

    Ang! New word for the day: poult
    I guess we need more coyotes.
    Bakatcha with a Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Who writes this stuff???? That is the FUNNIEST thing ever...I love it. (It's serious, right? Not supposed to be funny? Bwa ha ha.)

    A person and a turkey sound alike?

    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.

    I mean--who knew????

  5. Now I have the image of Hank, in her leopard print shoes, with one foot on the neck of a flopping turkey - with Hallie on the sidelines telling her what to do.

  6. I'm with Hank. This is hilarious!

    One day, I had to stop my car on a four lane road due to two turkeys crossing the road. They were headed to the golf course.

  7. Melissa - I'm picturing the with plaid golf bags slung over their shoulders.

  8. Karen,
    Okay, I admit. You've acted on my fantasy. And now you can answer the question that's been in my mind ever since they started landing in my yard.

    WHAT do they taste like?

    And can you ever go back to Butterball?

    PS. I now want a rifle.

  9. Refuge in a Dunkin Donuts - love it :)

  10. Hallie, yes, my husband plucks them, but a friend just skins them. We like it better with the skin on, but it's a lot more work.

    They taste delicious! Especially when smoked, with onions, apples, and a slice of buttered bread in the cavity. That makes it very juicy.

  11. PS Don't shoot one unless it's the right season, AND you have a permit. The Fish & Wildlife Service frowns on out-of-season hunting.

    You won't believe this! My word verification: crantart

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  12. Oh great. I can just see myself putting my foot on a flapping turkey's head. I see them often when I'm out hiking and they've never bothered us. I didn't realize they could be dangerous. Now I've something to add to the mountain lions and coyotes and snakes that should be avoided.

    Thinking of returning to England where the most dangerous thing is a prickle from a hedgehog!

  13. Hallie,

    I envisioned more on the lines of Alice in Wonderland when the Queen of Hearts used the flamingo as a croquet mallet.

  14. Melissa, BETTER, MUCH BETTER! With Rhys's hedgehogs in the role of the balls.

  15. But, I have to ask: WHY did the turkeys cross the road?

    (crantart--too funny!)