Did you know bighorn sheep are slowly moving back into Oklahoma?
How cool is that?
Have you ever heard of Asia’s Marco Polo Sheep-a massive mountain dweller that lives exclusively in elevations of 12-15,000 feet?
Oh and by the way , the rams sport horns upwards of 60 inches in length.
Learn about this and much, much more in the podcast of my radio program “Moore Outdoors” (May 25 edition) as I interview Gray Thornton, President & CEO of The Wild Sheep Foundation.
Wild sheep have a deep personal meaning in my life dating back to early childhood when I would sit with my Dad and cut out photos of wildlife from Sports Afield,Field & Stream and Outdoor Life and place them in a scrapbook.
Wild sheep and wild turkeys were my favorites.
Dad passed away of natural causes on a hunting trip with me five years ago but the memories of sitting in his lap and clipping out those photos will never fade.
A recent discovery of one of these scrapbooks in a storage vault brought back a flood of emotions and reminded me that a love of wild sheep has been with me my whole life.
The interview is just one of what will be many broadcasts, articles and investigations on wild sheep and their conservation moving forward.
This includes a forthcoming major feature story on desert bighorn in Texas Fish & Game magazine in the August 2019 issue.
For now check out the podcast. It’s one of the best interviews I have had in 20 years of radio.
Listen to learn about wild sheep of the world and to be inspired by their amazing conservation story.
Seeing a feral hog in thick snow was surreal to me.
I had seen thousands in swamps, cactus thickets and rocky canyons in Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Florida but seeing one bust out from behind a tree on a snow-covered hill in Michigan was wild.
This was back in 2001, just 20 years after the first feral hogs were spotted in Michigan. Now they are in virtually every county in the state.
The feral hog issue is definitely most pronounced in the South but hogs are becoming increasingly common in the North.
A decade ago I did an interview with a radio station in New Jersey because they had just opened a hog hunting season and the host wanted advice of dealing with these invasive exotics.
If states on the northern tier of their range in America do not take action then hogs will gain a permanent foothold above the Mason-Dixon line.
Some states have taken an unusual stance on dealing with hogs. They have made hunting them illegal.
It seems counterintuitive to eliminate a potential method of removing many hogs from the landscape.
The reasoning in states like New York, Minnesota and Kansas is the spread of feral hogs has had much to do with ranches that put them behind high fences for hunting. Hogs of course escape and the population outside fences spreads.
I have no doubt this has contributed greatly to the spread of hogs in my native Texas and have written on this in Texas Fish & Game.
It’s a bizarre idea to prohibit a hunter who is out to seek deer for example from killing one when at the end of the day state officials will have to kill hogs to stop their spread.
Perhaps simply banning importing them or transporting live pigs would be better.
It will be interesting to see how management of hogs changes as they multiply.
Will states that ban hunting them see success in their fight against this foreign invader? Or will they have to change their tactics?
Auburn, NY—Mention New York to virtually anyone who lives outside of the Northeast and it conjures images of skyscrapers, traffic jams and urban sprawl.
New York is of course not just a city but a state and much of that state contains beautiful forests, farmlands and mountain ranges, greatly contrasting the Big Apple.
The state is home to around 180,000 eastern wild turkeys and that is why I found myself hunkered down in a blind for the opening of the spring season.
The hunt was a success and I bagged a nice bird but the real mission of the trip was to capture a good photo of an eastern gobbler to help complete my quest to capture photos of the “Grand Slam” (Rio Grande, eastern, Merriam’s and Oceola) in 2019.
The aim is to raise awareness to turkey conservation triumphs and concerns.
It is my belief after much study that if we get turkey conservation right-especially in relation to their habitat America’s forest will be dramatically healthier and all wildlife in their range will benefit.
They are the proverbial canary in the coal mine and in my opinion the cornerstone species for forest conservation in the United States.
That is why I was so excited to get this photo of the big gobbler I took when it appeared in the field.
Me and my friend and NY resident/expert turkey caller/outdoor writer Lou Marullo hunted a farm near Cato, NY in an area with a good mixture of corn, beans and other crops and forests.
According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) after reaching their peak around 2001 (250,000 birds), wild turkey populations declined gradually over the next decade. This was followed by a more severe decline since 2009.
The decline in turkey numbers may be more pronounced in some areas. Reasons for this include cold wet spring weather, tough winters, and changes in habitat quantity and quality. In areas where open habitats such as agricultural fields, hayfields, old fields, thickets, and young forests have been lost due to development and vegetative succession, there are fewer turkeys. In areas with a larger proportion of “big woods” turkeys will persist, but at lower densities than areas with a mix of mature timber, early successional habitats, and agriculture.
According to DEC officials, predation may also be a factor due to the fact changes in habitat give predators like coyotes easier opportunities to get birds.
New York turkey hunting regulations are adjusted to reflect population trends and hunter harvest is figured into management strategies and is considered to have minimal impact on long-term turkey populations.
Turkeys were hunted at their population rise and peak in the late 90s to early 2000s and are hunted and managed now.
At the end of the day habitat is the ultimate key and during this Turkey Revolution my eyes have been greatly opened to the scope of issues facing turkey habitat.
In New York forests are continually being removed for farming and housing developments. And while turkeys can live with small sets of woods and big cropland, they need a good mixture of crops, mature forests and intermediate woodlands.
Developments do them no good.
A key to turkey conservation is getting landowners to see value in the birds. Two of the tracts I visited and hunted on were kept as forests specifically for the purpose of hunting. Land in this state that is not seen as a value for hunting or otherwise for wildlife is eventually plowed or developed.
It’s that simple.
The eastern turkey is a truly amazing, wary creature and were what founding father Benjamin Franklin famously wanted to use as America’s icon.
They were the dinner for the first Thanksgiving and are a species we should monitor more to see where the health of forests in their range is going.
Groups l ike the National Wild Turkey Federation and state fish and wildlife departments do a great job but they are limited. They need everyone to support efforts for turkeys.
There is no concern of major decline in the near future but looking down the road it’s hard to imagine turkey habitat in states like New York not declining as human populations surge.
We need to make sure available habitat is maximized and managed properly.
Few are interested in a variety of threatened, endangered and declining animals in the eastern turkey’s range but due to the fact turkey hunters are passionate, these birds have a huge fan base who cares about their habitat.
And they spend millions of dollars on conservation.
Turkeys are important for the wild lands of America and I was honored and privileged to capture the second species in my Turkey Revolution question.