The Eastern Wild Turkey: A Louisiana Thanksgiving Story

There are five subspecies of the North American wild turkey: the Rio Grande, Merriams, Osceola, Eastern, and Goulds.

There are myths and misconceptions about hunting each subspecies, such as the notion that Alabama and Mississippi Easterns are the hardest to hunt, or that Florida Osceolas are the quietest and hardest to call in. Regardless of difficulty or the collection of a Grand Slam, each wild turkey is to be celebrated.

Gobble, gobble! This Thanksgiving, why not ditch the factory-farmed turkey and opt for a wild one? Thanks to decades of conservation efforts, Louisiana’s wild turkey population is making a comeback, offering a delicious and sustainable alternative to the traditional Thanksgiving bird.

From the Brink to the Table:

Once upon a time, the future looked grim for Louisiana’s largest game bird, the eastern wild turkey. By the middle of the 20th century, their numbers had drastically decreased due to overhunting and habitat loss, leaving only a few solitary flocks. However, the population has dramatically increased as a result of committed conservation efforts, such as trapping and relocation initiatives.

A Taste of the Wild:

Wild turkeys are a far cry from their commercially-raised counterparts. They have a richer flavor and are leaner, which is indicative of their natural diet of berries, seeds, insects, and grasses. They can fly at 50 mph and run at 18 mph, making them more active as well.

More Than Just a Meal:

Choosing a wild turkey for Thanksgiving is not just about the deliciousness on your plate. It’s about supporting sustainable practices and contributing to the ongoing success of this iconic species.

So how can you get your hands on a wild turkey?


If you’re an experienced hunter, you can try your luck from April to May, which is Louisiana’s spring turkey season. Remember, strict regulations are in place to ensure the sustainability of the population.

Buying from a Licensed Vendor:

Wild turkeys are sold by a number of authorized vendors in Louisiana, so you can have the flavor of the wild without having to go hunting.

A Thanksgiving Tradition Worth Reviving:

As we gather around the table this Thanksgiving, let’s remember the importance of conservation and the role we can play in ensuring the future of our wildlife. Choosing a wild turkey is a delicious way to honor this tradition and celebrate the resilience of nature.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Basic Characteristics of the Osceola Wild Turkey


Dark-brown tips on tail feathers

Mostly black wings with very small white bands


Adult males weigh approximately 20 pounds

Adult females weigh 8 to 12 pounds


Your browser does not support the audio element.



Shorter beard-lengths than Easterns on average

Hunting Difficulty:

Considered the toughest species to call in

Rio Grande Wild Turkey

Information provided by NWTF

Photography by Darcy Daniels

Rios concentrate in the western desert regions of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and other western states. Mexico also has a healthy population. Their gobbles and beards are moderate, their wing feathers have equal black and white bars, and the tips of their tail feathers are tan in color. Adult males weigh around 20 pounds while their female counterparts weigh around 8 to 12 pounds.

IDENTIFYING TURKEY SUBSPECIES | Talking Turkey with Hunters Connect


What is the most common turkey in Louisiana?

Eastern Wild Turkey | Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

What is the most common wild turkey?

Often referred to generally as the “wild turkey”, the Eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) is the most common species found in the U.S. and eastern Canada. Known for their size and large plumes, this subspecies always makes for an exciting hunting experience.

Can you shoot hen turkeys in Louisiana?

General Regulations. Only gobblers (male turkeys) may be taken. Taking of hen (female) turkeys, including bearded hens, is prohibited; still hunting only. Use of dogs, electronic calling devices, motorized decoys and live decoys is illegal.

What are the four types of turkeys in the United States?

The North American Wild Turkey has five subspecies: the Rio Grande, the Merriam’s, the Osceola, the Eastern, and the Gould’s.

Are there wild turkeys in Louisiana?

Today, wild turkeys are distributed across Louisiana and occupy most available habitat suitable for the species. Up to 20,000 hunters pursue wild turkeys in Louisiana each year.

How do you find a Turkey in Louisiana?

Chose a top-drawer WMA and spend some time in the woods scouting; chances of taking a gobbler are good. Hunting opportunities for wild turkeys abound on public land in Louisiana — five Wildlife Management Areas boast a high hunter-success rate. Look to these WMAs when searching for productive public ground this year.

Where can you hunt wild turkeys in Louisiana?

Hunting opportunities for wild turkeys abound on public land in Louisiana — six Wildlife Management Areas boast a high hunter-success rate.

What was the Turkey population in Louisiana before 1880?

Prior to 1880, the wild turkey population in Louisiana was estimated to be as high as one million birds. However, by the turn of the century, the state’s turkey population started a precipitous decline due to exploitation of our virgin forests as well as commercial, subsistence, and unregulated sport hunting.

Leave a Comment