Above, a flock of wild turkeys on a farm owned by Gurnee dentist Dr. Steven Brucki. – Steven Brucki photos
by Long Hwa-shu
With a flock of wild turkeys frolicking on his farm in Trevor, Wis., early this spring, Dr. Steven Brucki, a Gurnee dentist, was hopeful that he would have a wild turkey for dinner this Thanksgiving.
“Unlike domesticated turkeys, wild turkeys are more flavorful and have a gamey taste,” said Brucki, a gentleman farmer who lives with his wife, Lynn, on 140 acres where they also raises pheasants, quails and guineafowl as a hobby.
“There were two females and a male,” he recalled of the wild turkeys he gladly sighted.
“Then a raccoon robbed their nesting place and killed one female,” he lamented.
The final clinch came when a coyote killed the other female one night. The male, apparently despondent, simply flew the coup.
“They’re all gone,” said Dr. Brucki, who has been a dentist 25 years. With his partner retired, he has been practicing by himself under S.B.A. Dental at 36100 N. Brookside Drive.
“I guess I have to go north to hunt a wild turkey,” he said.
Wild turkeys were released years ago by conservation groups to the prairie and farms in Wisconsin and elsewhere with the hope to restore them in their natural habitat in the ecological system. Some, Dr. Brucki said, would come near the house for a handout.
Wild turkeys, once abundant in North America, have become near extinct. They are much smaller and leaner than the domesticated kind which are bred for size than flavor.
Dr. Briucki said he bought pheasant, quail and guineafowl chicks from a hatchery in Iowa early this spring and released them on the farm.
“They are doing well,” he said.
Gobbledygook About Turkeys
Turkey would have become America’s national bird if Ben Franklin had his way.
Nevertheless, Americans are eating more turkey – not just on Thanksgiving but throughout the year. Turkey consumption has grown steadily because turkey is high in protein and low in fat.
The modern turkeys are unlike their wild ancestors which are much smaller, leaner and can fly – only for short distances and up to 55 miles an hour. Once abundant in North America, they are near distinct due to hunting and encroachment of their natural habitat.
While the average weight of a turkey sold in stores is about 15 pounds, you can buy one weighing more than 30 pounds. The heaviest turkey ever raised was 86 pounds. Today’s turkeys grow so fast and large that they tend to fall over.
A male turkey, called Tom, can reach 30 pounds in 18 weeks after hatching. The turkeys sold in store are generally hens. Toms are processed into turkey sausages, franks, tenderloins, cutlets and deli meats.
Turkeys are believed to have been brought to England in 1526 by a Yorkshire man who bought six of them from American Indian traders. Native Americans hunted wild turkeys as early as 1000 A.D. Like Americans, the English also eat turkey but more at Christmas. The Chinese, however, do not eat much turkey. Few Chinese restaurants have turkey on their menus. They prefer chicken or duck and consider turkey meat bit tough the dry.
As a tradition, the National Turkey Federation has presented a live turkey to the President of the United States since 1947. Customarily, the president “pardons it” and sends the lucky bird to live out its days on a historical farm.
By the way, the turkey trot is a ballroom dance style known for its short, jerky steps. – Long Hwa-shu