Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Gobbler group is still talking turkey

1958 gathering led to introduction of game birds

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John Krupinski, President of the Manitoba Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) for the last eight years, is motivated in his conservation efforts by a desire "to give something back."

"Being out in the woods hunting wild turkey taught me a lot about nature, wildlife and the outdoors," Krupinski reflected. "I soon realized how precious our wildlife and natural resources are and I wanted to do something to keep them that way."

Turkeys are not native to Manitoba but a little research revealed a remarkable conservation success story. The Altona annual Game and Fish banquet of 1958 had a guest speaker from the United States who spoke glowingly about wild turkeys. Right then and there a group of hunters decided that Manitoba was going to be home to the wild turkey. Six game and fish groups met in Plum Coulee and formed Wild Gobblers Unlimited (WGU). "Gobbler" is the name given to male turkeys, also called "toms," for their habit of "gobbling" during the mating season. The hunters imported birds from the States. Those first stockings were successful and local flocks soon developed. The wariness of wild turkeys is legendary and it did not take long for the birds to learn to avoid predators and other dangerous situations. All of the work in those early years was by volunteers and their organizations and without any government funding.

WGU is still going strong and Krupinski is their secretary-treasurer, thus providing strong linkages between both groups. Krupinski emphasized that having a Manitoba NWTF chapter allows Manitoba to tap into the wild turkey conservation network right across North America; it works!

Krupinski is an avid mentor of young people and likes nothing better than to introduce youngsters to hunting wild turkey. Wild turkey hunting lends itself to youth participation. The hunt itself can be very dramatic especially when a big, aggressive tom decides to "come in."

Krupinski describes his mentored youth hunt this year as follows:

"Conservative MLA Cliff Graydon has for many years hosted mentored youth wild turkey hunts on his farm. My hunter was young Tanner Balcaen and our experience was picture perfect. We had our blinds and decoys set up by 6 a.m. and right away we heard gobblers calling in the distance. Exciting! Their calling was quite aggressive but for the first while they just stayed hidden in the woods. But after half an hour, one big tom started to move towards us. And when the bird saw the decoy he immediately went into 'full strut' mode. It was magnificent. When the bird got within 25 metres, I gave Tanner the OK to shoot and he made a great shot which resulted in a clean kill. And to make it even better, Tanner's dad, Rob, was with us and he recorded the entire hunt for posterity. All Tanner could say about his first wild turkey hunt was 'awesome,' which he repeated over and over again, while Rob was simply 'over the moon' with pride. One of our other young hunters, Vanessa Hislop, also bagged her turkey, a nice young 'jake.' It was a great hunt!"

The future of Manitoba's wild turkeys looks bright indeed as long as dedicated volunteers like John Krupinski and the other members of the NWTF and WGU are "on the case." Throw in a supportive wildlife branch staff from Manitoba Conservation and, as Krupinski says, "we have it made." Manitoba is all the better for it.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 15, 2010 D11

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