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Pardon me, Mr. President, but we have a couple of problems.

Byline: INSIDE THE OUTDOORS By Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard

Time to talk holiday birds, from Thanksgiving turkey trivia to Christmas goose news:

President Bush this week "pardoned" two Thanksgiving turkeys donated to the White House by the National Turkey Federation, an organization of turkey farmers.

The annual turkey pardoning ceremony in the Rose Garden dates back to 1947, when Harry Truman was in the White House.

What most people don't realize, however, is that the new lease on life for the pardoned birds is exceedingly short. CNN investigated the fate of pardoned birds last year and found most last only a couple of months after Thanksgiving.

For the past 10 years, the network reported, the big gobbler has been taken to Kidwell Farm in suburban Herndon, Va. (located, ironically enough, in Frying Pan Park). Judy Pedersen, the public information officer for Frying Pan Park, told CNN that the pardoned birds, bred for consumption, are usually too fat and unhealthy to live long.

The president should be honoring the wild turkey instead of pardoning "flightless, obese domesticated" butterballs, said James Swan, author of "In Defense of Hunting" and an outdoor columnist for the ESPN cable network.

Swan has been campaigning for the White House to dump the pardoning ceremony in favor of releasing a couple of wild turkeys provided by the National Wild Turkey Federation.

"If we are going to honor a turkey at Thanksgiving" when we recall the Pilgrims' first feast, Swan said, "then let's go back to our origins and honor the real thing."

If you mentioned "wild turkey" 30 years ago, most Americans probably would have thought you were referring to a brand of whiskey.

Now, however, there are an estimated 6 million wild gobblers in the United States - up from about 30,000 turkeys at the time of the Great Depression. That's due in large part to the effort of the National Wild Turkey Federation, which counts many of the nation's 2.6 million turkey hunters among its members.

"One of the big reasons for the comeback of the wild turkey is the National Wild Turkey Federation, which since 1985 has raised more than $175 million for 24,000 conservation projects that have made the dramatic wild turkey comeback a reality," Swan said.

"The turkey hunters of America deserve credit for what they've done. And so does the turkey - the real turkey."

Less than 1,000 Oregon families get to experience dining on "the real thing" at Thanksgiving time.

According to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife telephone surveys, 519 wild turkeys were harvested during the 2002 "either sex" fall season.

That number should be somewhat higher this year, as the ODFW increased the number of fall turkey tags available on a first-come, first-served basis by 50 percent, to 3,000. The fall season runs from mid-October to the end of November in nine Western Oregon counties.

Opportunities to hunt fall turkey should continue to expand in the future, said Dave Budeau, ODFW's upland gamebird program manager.

Oregon is one of 42 states with fall turkey hunts. Spring gobbler hunts are available in every state except Alaska, where it's just too cold for turkeys, according to the NWTF.

While it's now too late to bag a bird for the Thanksgiving table, Oregon hunters still have plenty of opportunity to bring home a Christmas goose in the Northwest Permit Hunt Season. The second of three hunt periods opened Saturday and continues through Jan. 18.

Due to a cutback in federal support for the program, however, Lane County hunters now have only one "check station" to which they must report if they kill a goose. That check station is located at the Nielson Road parking lot at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area.

In previous years, Lane County hunters had the option of reporting to a check station at Greenberry, seven miles south of Corvallis.

Mike Stahlberg can be reached at mstahlberg@guardnet.com.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Nov 27, 2003
Words:653
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