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Joe Manchin III, Governor

Frank Jezioro, Director


News Release : March 08, 2007


Hoy Murphy , Public Information Officer (304) 558-3381
Curtis Taylor , Wildlife Resources Section Chief (304) 558-2771

“Godfather of Wild Turkey Management” and West Virginia Native Wayne Bailey Dies

The man often called “the godfather of modern wild turkey management” and “the dean of turkey hunters,” West Virginia native Wayne Bailey died February 27, 2007, at his home in Danville, Virginia, at the age of 88. Bailey was a lifelong conservationist and was responsible for the methods that have reintroduced the wild turkey to many states where the native populations had nearly disappeared. It was Bailey who, in the 1950s, started the process of live-trapping wild turkeys and relocating them elsewhere to restore populations. Bailey’s family is planning a “big” celebration of his life at the Stratford Conference Center in Danville within the next five weeks.

Wayne Bailey was born in 1918 in the town of Rock in Mercer County, West Virginia. He worked from 1945 to 1970 as a biologist for the West Virginia Conservation Commission and the later West Virginia Department of Natural Resources before moving to North Carolina for a similar job. He was a founding father of the National Wild Turkey Federation in 1973. He served in several capacities with the NWTF and was the first recipient of the NWTF Conservationist of the Year Award in 1978.

“First and foremost, Wayne was more responsible for the restoration of the wild turkey in our nation than any other biologist,” said retired WVDNR turkey biologist Jim Pack, who worked with Bailey on many turkey-related projects. “His greatest contribution in West Virginia was the successful restoration of wild turkeys to our public owned lands. He initiated and supported the spring gobbler hunting seasons in West Virginia and North Carolina, which now provides millions of hours of recreation each year to the citizens of those states.”

Bailey is credited with being responsible for habitat improvement for wild turkeys and other wildlife habitat on more than a million acres of public land in West Virginia. He helped with turkey restoration in other states, including Ohio, Illinois, New Hampshire, Vermont and Pennsylvania. He conducted a 10-year research study on the population dynamics of the wild turkey, a landmark work that has aided countless professional biologists to manage and protect wild turkey populations. Bailey also was an author, writing more than 100 papers and at least two books on the subject of wild turkeys and other wildlife, which advanced the profession of wildlife management and wildlife conservation.

WVDNR Wildlife Resources Section Chief Curtis Taylor met Bailey while Taylor was a youngster, and that meeting helped inspire Taylor’s own career as one of the nation’s top wild turkey biologists.

“He had a tremendous influence on me as far back as when I was 15 years old and was asked to accompany him and several other DNR biologists to a sportsmen’s meeting in McDowell County,” Taylor recalls. “I read everything he wrote from high school through undergraduate school and on through graduate school. He made turkeys my passion and was a major reason I chose this profession. Although he left West Virginia before I started working for DNR, I knew him through other avenues like NWTF.

“I hunted with him in Wyoming County, a place in which he never thought turkeys would ever thrive when he worked in West Virginia because of poaching and other factors. When he found out I was releasing turkeys in Wyoming and McDowell counties he questioned my wisdom, but I kept him up to date on the population growth. He was amazed and wanted to see for himself. He drove up from North Carolina one year and we slept in our vehicles and hunted the next day. He heard more gobblers than he ever imagined. Neither of us got a bird but he was pleased with the work we had done following his lead in turkey restoration.”

For more information about Wayne Bailey, visit the NWTF Web site at


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