Ron Schara: Turkey fever, forever

  • Article by: RON SCHARA , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 30, 2014 - 12:33 AM

After Ron Schara first hunted turkeys in South Dakota in 1967, he led a movement to revive them in Minnesota.

hide

Turkeys are native to Minnesota, but there weren’t any left in the state by the late 1800s. Efforts to revive the population began to work in the 1970s.

Photo: Courtesy of Wild Turkey Federation,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Enough about high taxes, traffic jams and the winter without end in Minnesota. It’s time for some good news:

In the coming weeks, upward of 35,000 of us will be rolling out of bed hours before dawn (yes, this is good news) to slap on camouflaged outfits, dose ourselves in deer tick repellent and insert-in-mouth something called a diaphragm turkey call. Next, we will march into a black forest to find a seat without thorns at the base of a tree we still can’t really see.

Now the good news gets even better.

To greet the dawn, we will blow (not swallow) said mouth call trying to imitate the seductive sounds of a wild hen turkey. (Obviously, because this is a family newspaper, we cannot divulge exactly what the hen is saying, except — believe me — a male or tom turkey who has spent the night alone in an oak tree is apt to gobble with joy upon hearing this X-rated conversation.)

If your hen talk sounds promising — not too loud, not too often — the gobbler might appear in all of his spring mating splendor, chest puffed, tail fanned and ready to get it on.

Then, you shoot him.

Now, now, don’t start crying. A few million domestic turkeys die every Thanksgiving, and they never had a chance to get it on. And you don’t cry before bird carving, do you?

And remember this: More good news. The presence of wild turkeys in Minnesota is one of the state’s greatest conservation achievements over the past 50 years.

Once upon a time, by the late 1800s, this native bird was extirpated from the state’s landscape. That means gone. Wild turkeys were nowhere to be found in Minnesota, a condition that lasted nearly 100 years, despite repeated attempts in the mid-1900s to establish pen-raised birds in the wild.

Minnesota’s efforts to restore wild turkey flocks continued to fail until the early 1970s, when two moments in turkey history came together. First, Minnesota obtained about 29 wild Eastern turkeys from Missouri and released them in Houston County.

The second moment occurred in, of all places, the Black Hills of South Dakota. A small band of Minnesotans (and I was one of them) gathered there every April to experience wild turkey hunting. My very first turkey hunt was in the spring of 1967 in the Black Hills.

Back in Minnesota, the DNR had little budget to spend on turkeys, especially considering the bird’s poor restoration track record. Roger Holmes, then the DNR wildlife chief, told me that if we wanted more turkeys in Minnesota we’d have to find a way to pay for it ourselves.

So we did. In 1975, we formed the first Minnesota chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation in the back room of Nybo’s Restaurant in Red Wing. I was elected to be the chapter’s first state president on the grounds I called the meeting (there was no democracy in those days).

All of us at that meeting had experienced the addiction of turkey hunting. Among them, Bob Nybo, John Beard, John Clark, Bill Porter, the late Les Kouba, Ken Berglund and Chuck Thompson and others whose names unfortunately escape me.

We had one goal: raise money to help DNR expand its turkey transplant program. And we did. We paid DNR’s turkey trappers, led by Gary Nelson, who eventually trapped and relocated thousands of turkeys into new habitats. Nelson’s work was cold and miserable, waiting for birds to be baited into a trap. “We sat in the woods wrapped in blankets to keep warm because we didn’t have heated blinds,’’ Nelson once recalled. Our fledgling chapter also paid for corn food plots on private farmland in turkey country.

In the early going, the money raised by this one NWTF chapter was arguably DNR’s entire turkey management budget. But it was enough. In the spring of 1978, Minnesota opened its first modern turkey session and issued 420 permits. Nearly 11,000 Minnesotans applied for a license.

The rest is history, as they say.

According to DNR, the state now supports roughly 75,000 wild turkeys. This spring once again they’ll be clucking and gobbling in woods and fields from Bemidji to Caledonia. And just as certain, thousands of turkey hunters will be trying to imitate the same sexy calls.

  • related content

  • Winter rerun: Will ice be gone by fishing opener?

    Sunday March 30, 2014

    When Larry Anderson looks out across Leech Lake these days, he sees winter: Snowdrifts, trucks driving on the 3-foot-thick ice...

  • Minnesota DNR's eagle cam draws viewers worldwide

    Sunday March 30, 2014

    This year, the parent eagles, believed to be the same pair, have been constantly ­sitting on their eggs and chicks to keep them warm near downtown St. Paul.

  • Eagle migration

    Saturday March 29, 2014

    EAGLE MIGRATIONLarge numbers of bald eagles should be visible around Minnesota over the next few weeks. Streaming live video of...

  • Schara says try a “sexy” call to convince turkeys it’s worth approaching.

  • Ron Schara has a long history of hunting turkeys in the Black Hills of South Dakota and of helping turkeys in Minnesota.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Atlanta 4 Bottom 8th Inning
Detroit 3
Philadelphia 1 Top 9th Inning
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 1 Top 9th Inning
Tampa Bay 1
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 0 Top 2nd Inning
San Francisco 0
Los Angeles 1 Bottom 4th Inning
Chicago WSox 0
San Diego 0 Top 3rd Inning
Seattle 1
Cleveland 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Cincinnati 1
Milwaukee 0 Top 3rd Inning
LA Angels 0
Oakland 0 Top 3rd Inning
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 0 Top 1st Inning
Kansas City 0
Colorado 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Arizona 1
NY Mets 4:05 PM
Washington
Boston 6:05 PM
Minnesota
Toronto 6:05 PM
Baltimore
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Chicago
Dallas 9:30 PM
Portland
Calgary 6:00 PM
Boston
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Washington
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Dallas 6:30 PM
Florida
NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Nashville
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Arizona
Montreal 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Morgan State 3:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Niagara 4:00 PM
Siena
Holy Cross 6:00 PM
Bucknell
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Navy 6:00 PM
Colgate
Temple 6:00 PM
East Carolina
UAB 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
Lafayette
American Univ 6:00 PM
Lehigh
Wisconsin 6:00 PM
Minnesota
Fairfield 6:00 PM
Saint Peters
Arkansas 6:00 PM
South Carolina
Morehead State 6:00 PM
UT Martin
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
North Florida
Southern Ill 6:05 PM
Missouri State
Texas State 6:30 PM
Appalachian St
SC State 6:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Delaware State 6:30 PM
Coppin State
Middle Tennessee 6:30 PM
FIU
Texas-Arlington 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Norfolk State 6:30 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 6:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 7:00 PM
Florida A&M
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Georgia State 7:00 PM
ULM
Marshall 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Rice 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ark-Little Rock 7:15 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 7:30 PM
Arkansas State
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Grambling St
Alabama A&M 7:30 PM
Jackson State
Sam Houston St 7:30 PM
Lamar
Central Arkansas 7:30 PM
Nicholls
Portland State 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Southern U 7:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Houston Baptist 7:30 PM
TX A&M-CC
SE Louisiana 7:45 PM
New Orleans
California 8:00 PM
Arizona
Eastern Ill 8:00 PM
Belmont
Memphis 8:00 PM
Connecticut
VA Commonwealth 8:00 PM
Davidson
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Marist 8:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Northwestern St 8:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
North Texas 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 8:00 PM
Washington
Idaho 8:00 PM
Weber State
Abilene Christian 8:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Eastern Wash 8:05 PM
Idaho State
Bradley 8:35 PM
Drake
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Long Beach State
UC Riverside 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Stanford 10:00 PM
Arizona State
Utah 10:00 PM
Washington St
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Massachusetts 63 FINAL
Richmond 67
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Campbell 48 2nd Half 7:30
Winthrop 40
Oregon 44 2nd Half 13:16
Washington St 46
Indiana 28 2nd Half
(23) Rutgers 37
Pepperdine 27 2nd Half
Loyola Marymount 34
Auburn 10 1st Half 9:28
(18) Texas A&M 15
Morehead St 3:00 PM
Tennessee St
George Mason 3:30 PM
Saint Josephs
Western Carolina 3:30 PM
East Tenn St
Arizona 4:00 PM
UCLA
Texas State 4:00 PM
Appalachian St
TX-Arlington 4:00 PM
Georgia Southern
SC State 4:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Delaware State 4:30 PM
Coppin State
Portland 4:30 PM
Santa Clara
Norfolk State 4:30 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 4:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 5:00 PM
Florida A&M
Virginia Tech 5:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Central Arkansas 5:00 PM
Nicholls
Houston Baptist 5:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Gardner-Webb 5:00 PM
Radford
Georgia 5:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 5:00 PM
Marshall
Ark-Little Rock 5:00 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 5:05 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 5:15 PM
ULM
Sam Houston St 5:30 PM
Lamar
SE Louisiana 5:30 PM
New Orleans
Northwestern St 5:30 PM
Stephen F Austin
Alabama A&M 5:30 PM
Jackson State
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Grambling
Southern U 5:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 5:45 PM
Mercer
Abilene Christian 6:00 PM
Incarnate Word
La Salle 6:00 PM
Rhode Island
Illinois 6:00 PM
Nebraska
TX-San Antonio 6:00 PM
Rice
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
Oakland
Missouri State 6:05 PM
Indiana State
Georgia Tech 7:00 PM
(15) North Carolina
Presbyterian 7:00 PM
High Point
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Florida Atlantic 7:00 PM
UAB
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
North Texas
Wichita State 7:00 PM
Evansville
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Bradley 7:05 PM
Drake
Vanderbilt 7:30 PM
(12) Kentucky
Colorado 8:00 PM
USC
San Francisco 8:00 PM
Pacific
FIU 8:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Idaho State 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
Weber State 8:00 PM
Idaho
Purdue 8:25 PM
Minnesota
Cal-Irvine 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Long Beach St 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Hawaii 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis 9:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Northern Ariz 9:00 PM
Portland State
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Utah 10:30 PM
Washington
BYU 10:30 PM
St Marys-CA

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close