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Recognized as king of the game birds, the native American wild turkey has in the past been all but wiped out by civilization, having vanished from 18 (red map area) of the 39 states (dotted map area) it inhabited. Conservation and strict game regulations have increased the bird's numbers in recent years.
The turkey is the largest upland game bird in the U.S. (average size of mature gobbler 4 feet long, weight 14 pounds) and is unquestionably the wariest. Its conversational pattern, the familiar gobble, is the hunter's best means of locating the bird and imitation calls are a successful hunting device.
When a dog is used a cocker spaniel is considered best. More often, a man hunts the turkey with turkey calls or "roosts" it at dusk.
Turkey prospects this season are brighter than for any other bird. Not too many years ago biologists feared that the turkey would share the fate of the extinct passenger pigeon. But this year Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wyoming all report turkey populations increasing, and only New Mexico indicates a drop.
Pheasants were successfully introduced to the U.S. in 1881 when the U.S. Consul in Shanghai sent 28 ring-necks to Oregon. Hardy and prolific, they adapted themselves so amazingly well that only 11 years later the first shooting season was opened with 50,000 birds killed the first day. Where civilization has driven out many of the native birds the pheasant has moved in and flourished. More than 5,000,000 are killed each year during hunting seasons. Their range extends across much of the U.S., but is concentrated in the North Central states from the Mason and Dixon line north as far as deep snow regions.
Usually found in corn stubble, farmlands and brushy fields, the pheasant lies well to dogs and is a fast flyer. Setters, pointers and spaniels all make good pheasant dogs, but seldom achieve the excellence possible on quail.
The pheasant outlook this season is excellent. Most states report increases with an exceptional high in Illinois. In Vermont, Washington and Wyoming, populations are down and the ban on pheasant shooting will continue in Vermont. The remainder of the states in which pheasant are hunted report population static and shooting conditions comparable to the 1954 season. In places where public shooting domain is being cut down, new interest is developing in the professionally run game preserve at which, for so much a head, pheasants, cover and bird dogs are supplied for the hunt.