Pounding steel fence posts rarely produces a celebratory moment. Normally it's a tedious chore, especially for working farmers like Bob Reggear. But on a sunny May morning 25 years ago, Reggear's heavy post driver produced the happiest sound the Idaho man had heard since the birth of his youngest child.
"After every clang of the driver, I'd hear a shock gobble," says Reggear, who raises landscaping trees on 2,000 acres north of Orofino. "Clang. Gobble. Clang. Gobble. It was such a thrill. It meant the turkeys had made it through the winter."
Prior to that spring in 1985, the booming gobble of a wild turkey had never been heard in Reggear‚ country's high-timbered ridges of ponderosa pine that tumble more than a thousand feet into the deep, twinkling blue water of the Clearwater River and Dworshak Reservoir. This is big-game country. Elk herds graze steep slopes, whitetails flit through timbered shadows, and when snow hits the high slopes that step down from the Montana border, mule deer gather in the clearings around the reservoir. If there were upland birds here at all, they were elegant ruffed grouse and their antithesis, the goofy spruce grouse fool hens that you can knock out of a tree with a well-aimed rock‚ and maybe a handful of chukar partridges on the highest wind-blasted slopes.
But several of Reggear's neighbors had hunted wild turkeys elsewhere in Idaho, and they came home gushing about the challenge of spring gobblers. Landowners around Dworshak petitioned Idaho's Department of Fish and Game to plant turkeys, which is why, on a snowy December in 1984, a barge piloted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers chugged into a frozen bay below Reggear's farm and released 16 wild turkeys into the gathering gloom of a dreary winter evening.