"It All Started with 20 Birds..."
more than cockeyed optimism. As a youngster, he heard his grandfather reminisce about hunting turkeys there and in southern Iowa. To this day, he remembers an old photograph of a man with a musket proudly displaying a turkey gobbler.
But before the Conservation Department would stock an area with turkeys, area landowners had to agree to the plan. They also had to promise to protect the birds from poachers until the birds’ numbers reached levels that could support hunting.
“They told me I had to have willing landowners with 5,000 acres of forested land before they would stock turkeys,” Shag recalled. “I got it, and they said I had to get 10,000 acres, so I got that. Then they said that I had to have 15,000 acres, so I called them up. I said, ‘Send me a bunch more of those forms,’ and I went out and got 20,000 acres.”
About this same time, Shag got state Sen. W.O. Mackey interested in the project.
“He went down there to Jefferson City and told them, ‘This guy isn’t going to quit until you give them some turkeys up there.’”
That seemed to break the logjam. The Conservation Department dispatched wildlife biologist Allen Brohn to inspect the area. Brohn, who eventually became the Conservation Department’s assistant director, drove to Adair County and was unimpressed with what he saw. He went to the assessor’s office to settle the matter.
Shag wouldn’t take no for an answer. He gave Brohn a guided tour of some of the 20,000 acres landowners had agreed to put at the Conservation Department’s disposal for turkey restoration. Brohn had to admit the land was better than he had expected. After returning for a more extensive tour a week later, he recommended an experimental stocking.
The next year, 14 wild turkeys trapped in southern Missouri arrived in Kirksville by airplane. One of the birds was dead on arrival, but the other 13 were released around Thousand Hills State Park.
That seemed like a paltry effort to Shag, so he asked Brohn for more birds. “I told ’em if they were going to do this as an experiment, why not give it a good try instead of just a one-time deal?”
In December, a Conservation Department worker from Peck Ranch Conservation Area delivered six more birds.
“After he turned them loose, he said ‘I’ve got to get back down to Carter County quick, or those birds will beat me home.’ He