Outdoors: Gobble up some turkey history this Thanksgiving week - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Outdoors: Gobble up some turkey history this Thanksgiving week

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Posted: Wednesday, November 23, 2005 11:26 am | Updated: 7:50 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Spanish explorers discovered Mexico in 1517, and on this expedition they discovered large numbers of turkeys. The men took careful notes and documented every detail of the New World but failed to tell us whether they found wild turkeys or domestic turkeys.

Because of this oversight, some historians credit Christopher Columbus as the first European to lay eyes on a wild turkey during his fourth voyage.

How long turkeys existed in North America before European explorers discovered the New World is uncertain. It is certain, however, that North America’s native bird has five centuries of recorded history.

Understanding this — the fact that there are two turkeys — only leads to a series of confusing questions.

During the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, the National Wild Turkey Federation, a conservation organization instrumental in restoring North America’s wild turkey populations, receives numerous calls and e-mails asking about the differences between the two.

Both turkeys were common in Mexico in the 16th century. Historians know that Indian tribes in Mexico, particularly the Aztecs, were skilled at hunting wild turkeys, and capturing and domesticating some of them. Those domesticated wild turkeys evolved over time, learning to rely on humans and becoming tame.

Domesticating plants and animals emerged, more or less, as groups of huntergatherers evolved into farmers and stockbreeders. So domesticating turkeys was a choice of convenience, a way to fence in dinner.

In spite of all the questions, one thing has always been certain — people like to eat turkeys. Its meat was once reserved for the elite; in 16th century Mexico, some towns only allowed lords to eat turkeys. When comparing the two birds, the wild turkey is better known for its physical attributes and attitude.

On Thanksgiving Day, you may want to stop and consider the domestic bird before you. Basted and stuffed, he is not the same as the wild bird often depicted, sometimes standing beside humble pilgrims, in many commercialized Thanksgiving images.


The fifth annual Gilbert Flyfishing Swap Meet, sponsored by the Gilbert Department of Parks and Recreation and Arizona Game and Fish Department will be from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday at the Gilbert court parking lot, 55 E. Civic Center Drive.

The event, including parking, is free to the public. Lots of fly-tying materials, tools, rods, reels, line, clothes and a casting area will be available.

Free table spaces available for exhibitors.

Contact David Phares at (480) 635-7851 or davidp@ci.gilbert.az.us.


Tempe Town Lake: This popular lake was stocked with trout last week for the first time this season. There was a "Welcome Back the Trout" party to celebrate the opening of the trout season. If you didn’t make the festivities, Tempe Town Lake is still a great place to visit during the Thanksgiving holidays to work off some accumulated calories, and possibly bring home some great tasting low-cal rainbows. It also has plenty of bass, sunfish and catfish as well. Remember, you need a state fishing license (not an urban one) to fish the Town Lake. All the urban lakes were also stocked with feisty trout and hybrid sunfish for the holidays.

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