Live Turkeys Once Again Dropped From Plane at Arkansas Festival

For over 50 years, it’s been a tradition at the annual Yellville Turkey Trot festival in Arkansas for a plane flown by someone only known as the “Phantom Pilot” to fly about 1,000 feet over the crowd and drop live turkeys to the ground. Festival-goers then chase and catch the turkeys Ė the ones that survive and can still walk, that is.

Thanks to complaints from PETA and others appalled by this cruel stunt, festival sponsors stopped sanctioning the turkey drop. No live birds were tossed from planes at the Turkey Trot festivals from 2012 to 2014. People who didn’t want turkeys to suffer were glad this cruel tradition had finally come to an end.

Or had it? Once again, live turkeys were dropped from a plane at last year’s Turkey Trot, and again at this year’s festival, held earlier this month.

PETA members were on hand this year to save some of the injured birds.

“We rescued four turkeys — one who was trussed by his legs and tossed onto the concrete where he lay panting as spectators walked over him, and another found bleeding from her neck and legs,” Gemma Vaughan, a PETA animal-cruelty caseworker, told ArkansasOnline.

Rosie Hilliard, a local activist, has filed a formal complaint with the Yellville sheriff’s office, alleging the pilot terrorized the birds and violated state animal cruelty laws.

And now, for the first time, the Associated Press†reports that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating the turkey drop to see if it broke any laws — but not in regard to animal cruelty, since it isn’t the agency’s jurisdiction.

The reason the FAA has not been involved in the past is because the turkeys aren’t considered to be projectiles. Objects can legally be dropped from planes as long as they don’t injure people or damage property on the ground. “FAA regulations don’t specifically deal with dropping live animals out of airplanes, so we have no authority to prohibit the practice,” FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford told ArkansasOnline.

However, he added, “This does not mean we endorse it.”

Like many locals who attend the Turkey Trot festival, Dana Woods, who was the Phantom Pilot for 15 years, sees nothing wrong with what he did. “All those ‘bird-loving’ people” have misplaced priorities, he told ArkansasOnline. The turkeys can fly, he said. They can spread their wings and glide to the ground.

Last year, Woods dropped a dozen turkeys from his plane. Two were killed on impact.

It’s true that wild turkeys can fly, but it’s usually “from treetop to treetop, at an altitude of less than 100 feet,” ArkansasOnline reports. “Woods said last year that the turkeys were released at an altitude of 600 to 700 feet over the creek.”

That altitude alone would be enough to frighten the turkeys, Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton, a professor of poultry science at the University of Arkansas, told ArkansasOnline. The expert said the turkey drop was a “horrific act of abuse.”

It’s time for the Phantom Pilot to stop making an appearance at the Yellville Turkey Trot to commit this horrific act. Please join more than 90,000 others who have signed and shared this petition telling Marion County Sheriff Clinton Evans to stop allowing turkeys to be thrown from a plane.

Photo credit: Click Images


Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine A5 months ago

how would they like to be tied up and dropped out of a plane?? What is wrong with these people!

Marie W
Marie W5 months ago


Melania P
Melania Padilla5 months ago

Really, I am shocked at some people's stupidity. No decent words I can express!

Jennifer H
Jennifer H10 months ago

Flipping idiots. I think it is all the pollutants in the water now - everyone is getting stupid. How the heck can this be considered enjoyment, entertainment, excitement - or anything else. More evil.

joan s
joan s10 months ago


Philippa P
Philippa Powers10 months ago


S M10 months ago

Americans are seriously weird!
For their amusement they enact cruelty to birds, pollute the atmosphere they will breathe, add to the carbon factors of the world that killing our planet, (worse news from U.N. this week) ......

Mary Beth M
MaryBeth M10 months ago

It's pure sadism. As far as turkeys flying-wild turkeys are capable, however domesticated turkeys are too heavy to fly. Just sick.

Christine S
Christine Stewart11 months ago

I hate when people defend this practice by saying "turkeys can fly"- well, humans can run- should I shove someone off a moving train? Humans can run, so they should be just fine, right??

Isa J
Isa J11 months ago