Planting Wild Turkeys on Private Land?

Turkey strut ( Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I have a few questions about putting Eastern wild turkey poults out on private land. I just love to hunt them. There are turkeys out there already but I would like for there to be a lot more. How or what can be done to get more turkeys planted on the property? (Joe D.)

Answer: Permission will not be granted to any person to release turkeys into the wild that have been domestically reared for propagation or hunting purposes. Only turkeys trapped from the wild by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) may be released into the wild (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 671.6 (b)).

According to DFG Turkey Program Manager Scott Gardner, besides being illegal, releasing captive-reared turkey poults will not ultimately produce more turkeys in the wild, and could actually harm the wild population. Beginning in the 1920s, DFG raised turkeys and other game birds and released them into the wild. By 1951, DFG and other wildlife agencies stopped the practice because it wasn’t resulting in self-sustaining wild populations of turkeys. In 1959, DFG started importing and releasing the Rio Grande subspecies of wild turkeys that were trapped in the wild in Texas. Wild trapped birds were highly successful and virtually all of California’s current wild turkey population came from these releases.

Game birds imprint on their mothers immediately after hatching and they learn behaviors necessary to survive in the wild in the first few days of life. Captive-reared birds do not develop the survival skills that are learned from a hen in the wild, and most will not survive. Domestic turkeys have higher rates of disease which is a risk to the wild population, and breeding with them would decrease genetic fitness of the wild population. Wild turkeys thrive where habitat is good, and they need a mix of trees, grasslands and water.


Catching crabs on rod and reel?
Question: I will be getting a fishing license soon even though I don’t really need one since I do most of my fishing from public piers. I have a question about when a crab goes after a baited hook and is caught while fishing. Does it really have to be thrown back then? I think if someone is lucky enough to bring a six inch crab up to a pier, they should get to keep it. It’s not easy to do. I have had many large crabs let go as soon as they hit the surface. I have never caught a six-plus inch crab, but if I pulled one up, I sure would like to eat it. Can I keep it or do I have to let it go? (Ray A.)

Answer: Unfortunately, the law does not allow crabs to be caught with hook and line. Crabs may be taken only by hand, baited hoop nets, crab loop traps, and if north of Point Arguello, crab traps. The traps must meet the escape port requirements described in regulations (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(c)). If you find yourself one of the lucky fishermen to have a crab ride your fishing line all of the way up to the pier, take a picture to capture the memory, but then you’ll need to toss it back. Sorry.


Selling sturgeon eggs from a legally-taken sturgeon
Question: If I catch legal-sized sturgeons with eggs, can I sell the eggs because I don’t eat them? (Byron M.)

Answer: No. It is illegal to sell any portion of a sturgeon or any fish taken under the authority of a sport fishing license (Fish and Game Code, section 7121).


Where does the deer tag need to go?
Question: After harvesting a deer and filling the tag, does the tag stay with the meat in the freezer or stay with the head and antlers if it goes to a taxidermist? I always thought it stays with the meat. (Hans G.)

Answer: The tag must stay affixed to the antlers for 15 days following the closure of the deer season. If you send the head or antlers to a taxidermist, the tag must stay with the head and antlers while in their possession. The tag does not need to remain with the meat.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

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