Wild turkeys were abundant in Illinois prior to European settlement. During the 1800s, unregulated hunting and the extensive clearing of forests were the beginning of the decline of the species. The state legislature closed the state to wild turkey hunting in 1903, in an effort to preserve the remaining populations. It was too little too late, and by 1910 wild turkeys had been eliminated from Illinois.
Remaining forests and woodlands in the southern and western part of Illinois that were too rough for agriculture gave hope for turkey reintroduction in our state. Beginning in 1959, wild-trapped turkeys were obtained from other states to begin our stocking efforts. From the 1970s through the year 2003, Illinois trapped wild turkeys from areas where they were thriving and transplanted them to suitable habitat that had not yet been re-colonized.