The Fowl Legacy Of Oregon's Wild Gobblers

Nov 23, 2016

Thanksgiving usually means turkey.  But as families feast on big Butterballs from the grocery store, they might be watched from afar, by the main entrée’s freer, wilder cousins.  KLCC’s Brian Bull reports.

A Eugene-area gobbler on the loose.
Credit Brian Bull / Brian Bull

Wild turkeys on the prowl in Eugene.
Credit Brian Bull

On a street outside Eugene, a wild turkey wanders about, chirping…perhaps calling out to its flock. 

Brian Wolfer of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says it’s one of many sounds the birds make.

Brian Wolfer, wildlife biologist with the ODFW's Springfield office.
Credit Brian Bull / Brian Bull

“In the spring is when you hear more of the gobbling," begins Wolfer.  "That’s when the males are taking to the hens, and they’re talking to the other gobblers to show off who’s the biggest and toughest.” 

The turkey itself is a transplant from the southern and eastern parts of the U.S.  they were introduced across Oregon several times in the past century…more recently in the 70s.

There is a hunting season, but don’t expect them to be like the bulkier, store-bought birds which are essentially raised on reverse fat-camps…where plumpness is priority.

“The domestic turkeys…the whole turkey’s kinda encased in fat. And that makes it easier to cook.  But the wild bird actually flies, uses its legs a whole lot more, so the dark meat is much darker. But without all the fat, a person has to take care to be sure they stay moist.”  

Roast turkey.
Credit's Brian Black

And wild turkeys can be a bit gamier…though anything’s more palatable with gravy and yams.