How Turkeys Really Got Started On High Prairie

Doug Taylor

(Left) The birds are pictured in Ben and Letitia Taylor’s backyard by the smokehouse on the right.

Here is a picture of some turkey toms that came to the Ben Taylor residence from the Heine Kline Place back in the 50s. I had got some hens from Heine with the same breeding. Ernie Struck got one of these toms + 16 hens from me with the same breeding. I had always used domesticated turkey toms however and all the turkeys ran together.

Many of these neighbors had upwards of 200 turkeys or more, such as myself, Carl Parrish, Ernie Struck, Ben Taylor, and Wilbur Johnson. The turkey population on High Prairie did well, especially with the infusion of a little wild blood. We did not have the predator problem that we have now. I have found turkey nests with as many as 13 eggs, all hatchable, with the hens raising most of the poults. With so many turkeys it was natural for some of the toms to accumulate hens and disperse with other neighbors beginning to acquiring flocks.

These turkeys are great flyers and I have seen them cross the Klickitat River and probably establish turkeys on that side. By the late 60s the turkeys were even well-established down John’s grade through the lower loops into the state land.

It was not unusual, even before the game department had a season, that some hunters would shoot at the flocks along the road, also helping to disperse them. 

The game department, seeing how well turkeys were doing on the Prairie, established some in Wahkiacus and other parts of the state. Some of the neighbors that did not have turkeys noticed that the turkeys were invading their wheat fields. So I know that the game department set up at least two traps for turkeys to remove and place in the other areas of the state of Washington. 

Notice how these birds are colored. Heinz had said he got some wild birds from the South, but from the looks of them they were also mixed with tame breeds. Many of the birds here now are from the same breeding. For many years my hens would hatch at least one red turkey, which the game department did not like to see, because they knew they were not wild birds.

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