In the Texas Hill Country just north west of Fredericksburg, Texas among the rolling hills of the Edwards Plateau lie thousands and thousands of acres of some of the most beautiful land to be found in the country. If you were to drive the small county roads just about any time of year you will see Wild Turkey by the dozens strolling around grazing or perhaps getting ready for mating season. It wasn’t always like this…
Back in the 60’s and 70’s Wild Turkey in this area had almost been wiped out due to several factors but mostly depredation by Coyotes, Bobcats and Raccoons. My wife’s great grandfather had owned a big ranch in this area for a long time and he wasn’t too happy with what was going on. So he and a neighbor rancher started to buy hand raised Wild Turkey and began to breed them with native birds and release them in to the wild. As the story was told to me it was fairly slow going at the time but a number of contributing factors helped speed the process up. Coon skin prices had gone through the roof and anyone with a fire arm was more than happy to control the Raccoon population while making a few extra bucks. Some folks probably thought these two old ranchers from a by gone era were crazy, wasting their time and money but over time the results started to show.
Photo Courtesy of TPWD.
Everyday that I drive to the ranch on the narrow winding road and see these beautiful birds everywhere, I can’t help but smile. I tell my wife “Hey you see that big ol’ Tom there, and all those hens over there? They’re here because of your great Opa and his friend.” It’s amazing how small things can lead to big things even when it comes to wildlife conservation. You can make a difference if you have a goal in mind. It could be for a stronger deer herd with bigger mature bucks or it may just be for a better habitat for the wild life on your ranch or lease. I see and reap the benefits daily of what two men forty years ago decided they could no longer sit and watch native wildlife disappear.
The land is still in the family today and going on it’s fifth generation. I am blessed that I am involved in the wildlife aspect of the ranch and get to see all of our hard work pay off. My father in law tells me stories of how Quail use to cover the land, everywhere you’d walk through the tall grass, coveys of birds would flush out from your feet and scare you half to death! The native deer herd is strong but can always be better, we do the best we can to help them flourish and I am now looking at introducing Quail back into the area. I want to make a difference and maybe with hard work and some luck in forty years this land will be teaming with hundreds of Quail for the next generation to enjoy.