Due to severe winter conditions and other factors there was little expansion of flocks. Most of the counties in northern Michigan contained no turkeys. Without any support from an outside source each chapter raised the necessary funds to support the expansion of Wild Turkeys into new areas and counties.. The key was to insure their survival during severe winters. Each chapter purchased corn by the tons and distributed it free of charge throughout their areas and beyond. Twelve turkeys were counted in the first winter survey in the Traverse Bay’s five county area. A few years later about 10,000 were thriving. Over in the Ausable River Valley Chapter area all of the turkeys in that area were congregated on one farm where they were not welcome. Robby Robbins stepped in took care of the problem and began that chapter. Their flocks became so numerous they were trapped and taken to the U.P. and later Ontario for their first Wild Turkeys.
When the Pere Marquette Chapter was formed the DNR had conducted winter population surveys but had dis- continued them. Instead of an increase in population, turkeys were decreasing. In order to properly manage the flocks we have to know if and where a problem exists. With our urging and assistance surveys were established again.
We established a standard of uniform distribution of corn to turkey flocks during severe northern Michigan winters.
During that time period we had very good contact with our area conservation officers. We also had a great deal of support from our local residents. We became aware that the illegal killing of turkeys was becoming a big problem and had the potential of taking the turkey population back to zero. In response, a meeting with state representative Sid Ouwinga was held at Reed City. At our request he introduced a House Bill that would give the Wild Turkey big game status with the deer and bear. Despite the nay-sayers saying we would never pull it off, we proceeded.
We first presented at the house conservation committee. We explained the reasons for the bill and importance of passage. It passed the committee. We then lobbied the full house and obtained passage, then on to the conservation committee in the senate and then lobbied successfully for its passage. We attended the ceremony as Governor Blanchard signed the bill into law. As the bill proceeded through the legislature, fines were increased for offenders, as well as loss of hunting privileges for three years and jail time. It took a great deal of time, effort and expense but the results were beyond our expectations.