These turkeys can fly
Happy Thanksgiving. And one thing we can be thankful for in the Black Hills is turkey. Not the big-breasted, farm-raised beasts most people find on their holiday table, but the free-ranging wild turkeys that abound in the Black Hills.
You can see them at any time of the year. Sometimes they are stealthy — half a dozen birds tip-toeing cautiously across your back yard. Other times, they’re like a gang, hanging out at a roadside intersection looking like a bunch of feathered ne’er-do-wells. Once in a while — and it’s pretty extraordinary when you see this — they fly/soar over your head as you walk through a canyon.
Yes, unlike your average Butterball, these turkeys can fly. In fact, they’re surprisingly agile on the wing for a bird that can weigh as much as 24 pounds. They don’t fly far, but they do fly. From what I read, a quarter-mile is about the farthest they can stay airborne.
What I especially like about Black Hills wild turkeys are the odd yelps, cackles, gobbles and other sounds you sometimes hear on a hike.
South Dakota considers turkeys to be big game — don’t how they figure that — and turkey hunters flock to the fields each spring and fall in search of a big tom. According to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks, hunters in South Dakota bagged nearly 6,600 turkeys in the spring 2010 season.
I was surprised to find out that wild turkeys are hunted in much of South Dakota — for some reason, I only recall seeing them in the Black Hills — but the biggest areas for turkey hunting seems to be west of the Missouri River. In Gregory County, 974 turkeys were harvested. In nearby Mellette County, they bagged 776 birds that spring. The Butte-Lawrence region in the Black Hills yielded 412 birds.
The photo, by the way is courtesy of the National Wild Turkey Federation.