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Look Out! The Turkeys Are Taking Over.

     As I write, there are about a dozen wild turkeys walking on the roof of the barn outside my little study in west Sebastopol.  A few dozen more are on the other side of the house, nibbling herbs and what is left of the white Alpine strawberries they think of as their own.
     This morning I awoke to their coos and gobbles.
     The first wild turkey I ever saw was at Ridgely Evers farm  in Healdsburg. This was in the early 1990s and Ridgely was showing me his young olive trees when a huge bird rose from the brambles and vanished. Then it seemed like a rare sighting of an exotic creature.
     Now the birds, which are not native to California, are everywhere. A small flock of maybe 6 or 7 birds showed up at my house about four years ago. Today there are close to a hundred.
     During breeding season the spring, they are particularly aggressive. They terrify Poe and Rosemary, my two black cats. The oldest are so bold that they have on occasion walked right into my study. They are mellower in the fall. Sometimes they tap on my door but they have not yet attempted to enter.
     A few weeks ago I received an email from a woman who reads my columns in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.  “With Thanksgiving right around the corner,” she writes, “I would like to tout the virtues of wild turkey.” She is not a hunter, she added, but feels that the turkeys are depleting resources needed by native animals. She cooks the turkeys just as she does commercial birds and says they are juicy, tender and delicious.
     When I was working on California Home Cooking, I worked a bit with wild turkey. The breast meat was edible if cooked a long time--the book has recipes for wild turkey gumbo and wild turkey chili--but the legs and thighs were suitable only for stock.
     So her claims have got me wondering.
     Now that there are so many wild turkeys, are they living more pampered lives, munching on fruits and vegetables from neighborhood gardens and sleeping in nearby trees? They clearly feel no need to stay out of view and their efforts to forage for food and care for their young are not as strenuous as they were just a few years ago. Their leisurely lives would certainly make them more tender. And a diet of white strawberries, apples, plums and herbs, all of which they enjoy here, would surely result in delicious nuances of flavor.
     Of course, we can’t really find out.
     Hunting wild turkeys in Sonoma County is strictly limited.  The Department of Fish and Game, working with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, is sponsoring just two turkey hunts in Sonoma County. The first was held on November 8 and 9. The second takes place this weekend, with fifteen hunters  chosen from applications submitted to DFG. The hunts take place near Lake Sonoma.
     In certain parts of the state, the season stretches from November 8 to November 24 but not in Sonoma County.
You can read the regulations here.
     Someone should revise these regulations. I don’t want hunters with guns hanging out in my yard but, seriously, the turkeys are taking over.
Michele Anna Jordan