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Wild turkeys were an important source of food for American pioneers.  When European settlers arrived on the eastern seaboard, wild turkeys apparently lived in what are now 39 continental states and the Canadian province of Ontario. But as the fledgling nation began to grow and settlers tamed the wilderness, cleared the woodlands and pushed westward, under the relentless pressure from market hunters to feed the growing number of colonists, wild turkey populations quickly began to disappear.

Connecticut had lost its wild turkeys by 1813. Vermont held out until 1842 and other states followed. By 1920,the wild turkey was lost from 18 of the original 39 states. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the restoration of the wild turkey was heralded as a wildlife management comeback marvel. Combined population estimates nationwide in 1990 showed wild turkey numbers about 3.5 million birds and today, there are nearly 7 million wild turkeys across North America. All states but Alaska have huntable populations.

See: “History of the Wild Turkey in North America” by James Earl & Mary C. Kennamer and Ron Brenneman (pdf) on the National Wild Turkey Federation website