Podcast Episode 183: The Successful Reintroduction of Wild Turkeys and Jalapeno Wild Turkey Piccata

Turkey season has come upon us! Not many things rival the sound of calling and hearing those big old toms gobble back at you. We had the pleasure this season of hunting not far from the coast of Morrow Bay in California and bagging a few gobblers to bring home to the family. 

This recipe is a play on a good old chicken piccata recipe that’s super quick, easy, and doesn’t disappoint. If you’ve never had piccata, you’re in for a treat because when you pour the sauce over the top, everyone will think you’re a five-star chef. 

I spiced this one up with some jalapeños and wild turkey bourbon, but feel free to use any chili pepper or bourbon; you can also omit the peppers and just use white wine if you’d like to go the classic route. Any way you slice it, you’re bound to love this dish.

Read the written version of this recipe as prepared by Ara Zada

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About Wild Turkeys:

By the 1930s, market hunting and habitat loss had reduced the turkey population in North America to around 30,000 birds, a pitifully small number compared to their original pre-European settlement population, estimated to be around 10 million.

Although overhunting had a part to play in this – there was no management in those days – another factor also played a huge role: habitat loss. 

Farmers were clearing huge swathes of land for agriculture at the time, cutting down trees and burning brush. This pushed turkeys into smaller and smaller regions and allowed hunters to reduce their population even more rapidly. At least half of the states that called the wild turkey home had lost it altogether. 

There were a few attempts to stop the decline around this time, though, mostly led by Eastern sporting clubs. Pressure from these clubs spurred the Virginia and Pennsylvania game commissions to attempt a breeding program where they raised wild turkey chicks on farms and then released them into the wild. 

Though close to 300,000 birds were released this way, the survival rate was so low that the program failed. Young turkeys learn how to survive in the wilderness from their mothers —finding food, safe roosts, and avoiding predators. 

Without that knowledge being passed on from mother to chick, the farm-raised turkeys fell prey to coyotes, raccoons, bobcats, snakes, owls, and other large birds of prey. 

Other concerned groups and far-seeing individuals, including Theodore Roosevelt, were also setting aside habitat for animal species, including wild turkey. 

As time passed, many farms that originally pushed the birds out of their habitat were abandoned, eventually replaced with new forests that could act as habitat for turkey populations. This was especially true during the Great Depression when droves of people abandoned their farms and went looking for a better life elsewhere. 

Along with reemerging habitat, a new reintroduction method created by Herman Holbrook skyrocketed successful reintroduction. It involved using a net cannon to capture live turkeys in the wild and reintroduce them into their old habitats or new ones on abandoned land. 

This reintroduction method was extremely successful; many states used it to re-establish wild turkeys into their former range. 

In 1973, the non-profit National Wild Turkey Federation was started. It quickly began coordinating reintroduction efforts with states and other conservation groups. The Federation also helped to create and conserve beneficial wild turkey habitat, which further fueled successful wild turkey populations. 

About Adam Berkelmans:

Adam Berkelmans, also known as The Intrepid Eater, is a passionate ambassador for real food and a proponent of nose-to-tail eating. He spends his time between Ottawa and a cozy lake house north of Kingston, Ontario. When not cooking, he can be found hunting, fishing, foraging, gardening, reading, traveling, and discovering new ways to find and eat food.

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