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The Eastern Wild Turkey: An Evolution of the Hunter and the Hunted (Page 2)

By: Charles A. Norvell II

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These entries and others convince me that most hunters, early in the 18th century, used their calls to locate turkey, then stalk close enough to use their firelocks. Though the turkeys seemed countless and stupid they learned with each encounter with man and firearms. This can be observed today by watching ducks, easily fooled as the migration begins, are masters at picking up flaws in later stages of their travel. By the 1790's, the Shawnee found it more productive to lure unwitting white hunters and traders to their imitating turkey calls than the birds themselves.

Turkey Calls
Various Turkey Calls made by the author. Clockwise from top, Box Calls, Wingbone calls, Slate Calls in Tin Boxes. Photo by Author.

Wild turkey were rapidly retreating before the axe, plow, and gun. Retreating and evolving, disappearing at the false not or miss step of the careless woodsman. The hunters were devising new calls of slate and wood to more closely to copy the voice of the wild turkey. These friction type calls were the next step in convincing these birds the hunter was the genuine article. Man and bird dueled on a relatively even keel till the fall of the big wilderness forests were complete. By the early 1900's, only the most remote mountain ridges and wildest swamps still held numbers of the big birds.

The birds and the art of calling them was very nearly lost. Hunter and Hunted were at a crossroad in their evolution. The mid-1900's were an exciting time for both. Conservation began protecting the remaining habitat and soon restocking began. In parallel, men, such as Lee Howard Gibson, M.L. Lynch and Tom Turpin, began to re-invent the calls of the past: wingbones, slates, box calls. Today the wild turkey is restored to it's former range and beyond. Hundreds of call makers and sporting equipment manufacturers owe their daily bread to this restoration.


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