The cage traps Bailey used weren't very efficient. They seldom yielded more than four or five birds at a time, which often wasn't enough to start a flock. Pack said those small stockings seldom had a chance to work.
"In some instances, the [hunting] season got opened on them too soon," he recalled. "At other times, not enough birds got put out. It was a learning process. The stocking program got carried up to 1962, but was stopped because it wasn't getting the job done."
It wasn't until biologists began using "cannon nets" - nets that could be flung over entire turkey flocks by explosive charges - that trap-and-transplant became truly viable. Pack said former DNR assistant wildlife chief Jim Ruckel was the official most responsible for resuming the stockings.
"Jim deserves a lot of credit. He said we wouldn't put out five or six birds like we had in the past. We started putting out 30 to 50 birds in every stocking. From the time we restarted the trap-and-transplant program in 1970 until we made our last stocking in 1988, not a single stocking failed."
Though biologists get a lot of credit for the restocking effort, Pack said the true heroes were the DNR's wildlife managers.
"For the most part, they were the ones out there doing the trapping," he said. "They did the grunt work. Turkey trapping is a hard, seven-day-a-week job, and they were the ones out there getting it done."
Pack and his colleagues had a simple formula for making the stockings work.
"Our policy was to put the birds in the most suitable habitat first, and to work our way down the list to the least suitable habitat," he said.
Despite concerns that politicians would dictate where the stockings got made, DNR officials were mostly able to stick to their plan.
"In all those years, we only made one political stocking," Pack said. "Fortunately, it was in a county with suitable habitat, and the birds did just fine."
The last trap-and-transplant stocking, near the Logan-Mingo county line, filled in the final blank in the DNR's map of turkey-populated counties. From the original 16 mountain and Eastern Panhandle counties, biologists had conducted stockings in 32 counties. Pack said the remaining seven counties didn't have to be stocked because nearby populations had expanded into them.
In 1989, just one year after the Logan-Mingo stocking, hunters killed turkeys in all 55 counties for the first time in decades. Pack considers the stockings to be "one of [the DNR's] biggest wildlife successes."
"The stockings greatly speeded up the process of reestablishing turkeys statewide," he said. "Their range would have expanded naturally, but with natural expansion we might not have birds in every county even today."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.