Occasionally reported by pioneers arriving in what is today Minnesota, the wild turkey had disappeared from the state by the turn of the century. Today wild turkey gobbles reverberate from ridges in Houston County in the southeast to Becker County in the northwest.
Within 25 years the state's wild turkey population has grown from a few birds to more than 30,000. Harvest has followed suit. In the state's first wild turkey season in 1978, hunters bagged 94 birds. These days, hunters are harvesting more than 5,000 wild turkeys each spring.
Wild turkey numbers took off only after years of trial and error. From the mid-1920s through the mid-1960s, sports groups tried raising young turkeys on game farms and releasing them into woods. Foxes and coyotes grew fat on the easy prey. Not until wily adult wild turkeys were trapped from other states and transplanted into Minnesota did the population gain a foothold. The first successful stockings occurred in 1973, when biologists traded 85 ruffed grouse for 29 wild turkeys from Missouri, which they released in Houston County.
Using funds donated by the National Wild Turkey Federation, biologists continue to trap wild turkeys in areas of Minnesota where the birds are abundant and then relocate them to suitable new areas. During the past three decades, the bird's range has continued to expand west and north.