“George, uh, when you get a chance, can you give me a call? A, uh, a turkey hit your door last night and, um, it knocked the door off its hinges…”
A turkey? What? The voicemail had popped up on my mobile while I was riding to the airport in Antigua following ten days of sun soaked family relaxation. I wasn’t ready to go home much less hear that our house had been broken into by a wild turkey.
The connection was poor, the roads were bumpy, and the suspension was complaining.
I replayed the message.
Doug’s voice was tired and faltering, but it was the unlikely message, not the connection or his delivery which stumped me. A turkey broke down our door? What?!?!
Turkey Tale with Fishy Facts
I called Doug back as we bumped along. He answered and dilated the unlikely facts. The story was even more perplexing in long form.
A 23 pound wild turkey smashed through our mudroom door at around 8:30pm on Saturday night. Literally knocked the door right out of the wall, shredding the doorjamb and trim in the process. The alarm went off and New York State police responded to the call, immediately dispatching a trooper to the house. He was so surprised to discover the door blasted off the hinges and a dead turkey sitting on the threshold that he called in the police sergeant. Neither of them had ever experienced a break-in quite this bizarre before, so before long two troopers and one sergeant (plus an investigator by telephone) collectively unraveled the most likely circumstances and documented the incident. Photos were taken. Our caretaker, Doug, and our housekeeper, Lorri, witnessed and brainstormed the incident with the police and then the entire house was searched for evidence of any foul play. They found none. Apparently the turkey smashed the door down but didn’t manage to get into the loot. Or even the bar!
Doug confirmed that he had repaired the door temporarily to secure the house, and he had kept the turkey to show me when I returned. Did he want me to cut it open?
“I heard shots in the back meadows the day before. And the next day. Maybe somebody shot the turkey?”
I had my doubts. “At night? Who hunts turkey at night?”
“So get rid of the turkey?”
“No. Not yet. Let me talk this through with Susan on the flight home. I’ll call you when we land.”
When I hung up my bride who had been listening intently barraged me with questions. Chief among them — and reiterated in several different manners before I had a chance to respond — was the same question that loomed ominously for me too. How in the world could a turkey knock a robust exterior door right off its hinges?
I failed to adequately answer her questions or assuage her concerns. We fussed and worried, allowing our imaginations to inflate the surreal scenario nearly to bursting. By the time we landed in Newark I had decided to hightail it north to Essex the next day by train rather than driving north a couple of days later after my bride completed work commitments in Manhattan and New Jersey. I’d also decided that Doug’s idea about the wild turkey being shot might make a strange sort of sense. I couldn’t wrap my mind around a turkey, no matter how large, breaking and entering. And Doug’s mention of shots distressed me. Foul play?
At the very least this wild turkey tale smelled fishy.
Training to Scene of the Crime
I called Doug from the train to let him know I was on my way north and then followed up via email with a few people who’d already gotten wind of the turkey mystery.
DL: How is the turkey soup?
KS: I heard about your turkey burglar…
TD: Wow, I think that turkey was flying fast and hard… Sorry about your door! There must be a bad joke here somewhere?
DW: What?? Why would a turkey even do that? Truly stranger than fiction!
MD: A turkey??! Literally? That’s a hell of a turkey!
Me: Turns out the guajolote was 23 pounds. Literally knocked an exterior door right out of the jamb… the alarm was tripped and the artillery arrived to sort through the giblets. NYS Troopers consider it one of the most unique break-ins they could remember.
NH: Shock Horror! Was turkey acting under its own volition or was it being wielded? Was turkey cold? Is house on the site of an old turkey burial ground?
JK: Did you and Susan eat it, doorkill, housekill, randomkill, however it is labelled? Fricasseed, à la king, roasted, curried? Or did you just throw it out… Please do answer my query about the guajolote (wonderful Mexican word) so I can sleep in peace.
Wild Turkey Evidence
Needless to say, the old bird was beyond eating condition by the time I arrived in Essex. I snapped some photos and asked Doug if he were really willing to cut the carcass open to look for shot. He was. And he did, but found none.
This confirmed the original hypothesis. The wild turkey had most likely been ambushed by coyotes in one of our back meadows. Most of the feathers had been pulled off of his legs and a large wound in his breast suggested a coyote attack. The turkey escaped despite his wounds. But his adrenaline ran out (or his injuries simply got the best of him), and he crashed into the door, striking at precisely the spot where the top hinge attached the door to the jamb. We discovered that the contractor had failed to adequately secure the jamb to the surrounding frame, and the combination of sloppy construction and a heavy, rapidly moving projectile had been adequate to shatter the jamb and knock the door in.
Eastern Wild Turkey
It’s time to learn about the Eastern Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) which is a familiar critter in the Adirondacks and one of the most abundant examples of wildlife in Rosslyn’s meadows and woods.
Wild turkeys have excellent vision during the day but don’t see as well at night. They are also very mobile. Turkeys can run at speeds up to 25 mph, and they can fly up to 55 mph. (National Wild Turkey Federation)
When mating season arrives, anywhere from February to April, courtship usually begins while turkeys are still flocked together in wintering areas. (National Wild Turkey Federation)
Two major characteristics distinguish males from females: spurs and beards… Soon after birth, a male’s spur starts growing pointed and curved and can grow to about two inches. Most hen’s spurs do not grow. Gobblers also have beards, which are tufts of filaments, or modified feathers, growing out from the chest. Beards can grow to an average of 9 inches (though they can grow much longer). It must also be noted that 10 to 20 percent of hens have beards. (National Wild Turkey Federation)
Kamikazes and Banana Republics
Our kamikaze wild turkey had apparently sported an 18″ long beard (removed by Doug’s son by the time I took the photo), and his spurs were at least an inch long. Whether or not the old boy enjoyed a final mating ritual before crashing into Rosslyn’s mudroom door will remain a mystery, but I’d like to believe that he did. The love of his life, the real deal…
The next day the shots rang out behind our carriage barn, but I realized that they were coming from Essex Farm, an adjoining property where gunshots are about as common as a cinematic banana republic. My concerns about wild turkey “jackers” evaporated as I settled in to accept the latest chapter of our Rosslyn safari.
And lest you need a visual jumpstart to help you imagine coyotes’ appetites for wild turkeys, I’ll close with this short video from a stranger who would probably sympathize with our Gallopavo imbroglio.
What’s your verdict? Can you believe that a kamikaze wild turkey was behind this Rosslyn breaking-and-entering scenario? Dubious? Share your hypothesis below!