Turkey hunting basics
By Shawn Wagner, wildlife manager, Arizona Game and Fish Department
said, "If turkeys could smell, nobody would kill one."
Well, this may be true. Turkeys are one of the most cautious and
wary animals in the woods. They have keen eyesight and can hear
a twig break in the woods for an unbelievable distance. The following
tips will give you advantages you'll need to be successful in pursuing
these wily gobblers this spring.
Don't be seen. Choose camouflage clothing that
blends with the habitat you'll be hunting. Make sure you are completely
covered. Gloves, facemask and a hat are a must. Be sure all your
gear, including your gun, is camouflaged, too. Turkeys can pick
up glints from metal objects a long way off. Once you set up, do
not move. If the turkey sees you, you may never get a chance to
Set up in a good spot. When you get a gobbler to
answer a call, you'll want to get in fairly close and set up. Remember,
the tom may come in quickly to find the hen it thinks is beckoning
him. Pick a large tree or rock you can sit against, and try to sit
in the shade if you can. This will help hide any of your movements.
Face the direction the turkey is coming from, but angle your shoulders
slightly away from the bird's direction so that your shotgun fits
more comfortably. Sit with one knee bent so you can rest your gun
on your knee with the butt of the gun in your shoulder, because
you may be in that position for a while. Getting pre-set will minimize
your movements when the bird arrives. Try to move only your eyes
to scan for the first glimpses of an incoming tom.
Make the call. Place your favorite call next to
you so you can use it without much movement. If the turkey is in
view, use the call when it's behind a tree or rock, so it won't
see you moving. Mouth calls are more difficult to use than hand-friction
calls, but they are the best for calling without giving away movement.
Lower your call volume as the turkey closes in. Preseason practice
is the key to sounding convincing during the season, no matter what
type of call you use.
Make the shot count. The turkey should be within
approximately 40 yards to ensure a good hit. Aim for the neck of
the bird. Make any adjustments to get your shot lined up while the
turkey's head is behind a tree or bush, or even behind his tail
if he is strutting. Take the shot when the turkey has his head stretched
out to maximize your target area. And, be sure to keep your head
down on your stock when you shoot. A lot of people miss because
they picked up their head to look.
Good luck, and as always, make sure of your target and beyond.
back to top
By Brian Wakeling, big game supervisor, Arizona Game and Fish Department
turkey hunts this year have the potential to be really good--or,
Turkey populations do not typically respond to dry winters the way
most wildlife populations do. Overwinter survival, and hence spring
populations, are highly dependent on winter food availability. Last
fall, most areas of the state had good production of mast (acorns,
pinyon pine seed and other seeds). This provides the food that turkeys
heavily rely on throughout the winter. Couple ample food resources
with an already robust turkey population, a good poult crop last
spring, and little snow to limit their access to food, and there
are likely to be excellent turkey populations in most parts of the
A year ago the Arizona Game and Fish Commission authorized a record
number of spring permits for 2005, and hunters harvested a record
number of gobblers. The number of permits offered in spring 2006
is another record. Many people are reporting encounters with large
flocks of birds in areas where there have not been a lot of turkeys
in the past.
Now for the bad news. The incredibly dry winter may result in turkeys
breeding less predictably and moving to places that they normally
don't inhabit until the snows melt later in the spring. Although
abundant, turkeys might not be easy to locate because they may not
be calling actively, and they won't be where they were in recent
springs. And, despite the precipitation we received in March, it
is possible the Forest Service may need to restrict access to some
areas to deal with fire dangers. Check before you head out.
If you have a spring tag, be persistent. Turkeys will still be responsive
during the spring season, and they will still come to calls; they
may simply be quieter and more elusive than they usually are. If
you are having difficulty finding turkeys, try a little higher elevation
than what you are used to hunting. Consider varying your techniques
by using a variety of calls, and try calling in mid-day as well
as in mornings.
The only portion of the state where wildlife managers indicate that
turkey populations have been lower recently is north of the Colorado
River. For the past several springs, hunt success has been low on
the Kaibab. However, hunt success jumped up this fall and the population
is in good condition. The birds will be there, the odds just won't
be stacked in your favor.
Alex Howard gets her third Coues buck in as many years
Howard, 12, of Safford, Ariz. took her third Coues buck in as many
years this past season. After a failed stalk on a really big buck
in the morning, she and her father Danny located a bedded buck later
in the afternoon. Alex viewed the buck through the spotting scope
and decided she wanted it. She had taken a three-point buck each
of the past two years and wanted something different this year.
A short stalk brought her to within 230 yards of the bedded buck.
Alex and her dad waited patiently for more than an hour for the
buck to get up and move out into the open. Alex was a nervous wreck,
but her dad helped her practice holding her aim on the buck. Her
brother Chase wasn't helping matters, as he kept bumping into her
as she was trying to aim. Alex's dad kept reassuring her that she
would do fine, and he kept her brother away. When the buck got up
and exposed itself to an open broadside shot, Alex finally took
her shot and took a nice buck.
hunt recommendation process
By Leonard Ordway, game branch chief, Arizona Game and Fish Department
do you determine how many deer permits to authorize for a unit each
This is a common question our Game and Fish Department staff hears
each year--not just for deer, but for all big game species. Some
would say there is no rhyme or reason, but quite to the contrary,
we do have a hunt recommendation process we follow each year. It
is founded on two sets of factors--biological and social.
On the biological side, we have population index parameters for
each species that we measure and evaluate each year to determine
population status and available animals for harvest. In the case
of deer, these parameters are buck-to-doe ratio, fawn-to-doe ratio
and population abundance. These parameters are tracked similarly
each year to determine trends. Our wildlife managers survey the
deer population in their respective units during midwinter when
the rut is ongoing. The surveys are conducted from aircraft as well
from the ground--vehicle, foot or horseback. Survey efforts are
directed to derive a statistically valid sample and to replicate
previous years' efforts so that valid comparisons can be made.
We also monitor harvest and hunt success for each species through
the hunter questionnaire program (yes, it is very important that
you complete and return those little cards that we send to you in
the mail each year), check stations and biological specimen collection.
And finally, we work with the various land management entities to
assess habitat trend and condition as it relates to harvest objectives
and hunter access. All of this biological data is then evaluated
against species-specific management guidelines to determine permit
numbers and/or needed changes from preceding years.
For the social aspects of the process, the department works with
and through the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to establish hunt
guidelines. The commission, through the public commission order
process, directs the department on how to distribute permits relative
to hunt method (e.g., general, archery and muzzleloader), hunt type,
hunter group, season timing, designated animal for harvest, bag
limits and possession limits. During public meetings the commission
takes department recommendations (based on the commission-approved
guidelines) for hunts and shares them with the public. You are able
to provide comment at these meetings and through other means to
assist the commission in deriving the final commission orders for
the various species.
On April 22, the commission approved the final commission orders
for the upcoming fall hunting seasons (see article in this newsletter).
The process took many months and involved an extensive amount of
public input. We encourage your continued involvement in the process
in the coming years. Visit azgfd.gov
to stay informed as to upcoming commission meeting agendas and subsequent
hunt regulations. Enjoy Arizona's great wildlife resources!
Christopher Cox gets his first deer
Cox, 10, of Las Vegas, Nev. got his first deer last fall during
the Arizona junior deer hunt in Game Management Unit 12AW. He hiked
into the Kanab Creek wilderness area with his father, Donald Cox,
and hunting buddy Sal Moccio. Chris spotted a group of does on a
ridge and put all his practice at the rifle range to good use. He
quickly found a steady rest and checked the yardage to the deer.
The rangefinder reported 187 yards.
With a solid rest on a dead tree, Chris steadied the cross hairs
on the point of the deer's shoulder and fired. The shot rang out
and the doe dropped. Chris didn't need any tracking skills for this
deer: It was waiting to be packed out right where it landed.
Chris developed a passion for hunting at an early age. "My
dad loves to hunt, and ever since I was four years old, I'd think
about his trips--whether it was just a local quail hunt or an African
safari," he says. "I'd ask my dad about hunting, and he'd
tell me everything I wished to know."
When he was six years old, Chris got a .22-caliber rifle from his
dad for Christmas. His first hunt, for rabbit, helped stoke his
passion for the sport and eventually led to a try at bird hunting
with a 20-gauge shotgun. "Then came my first big game tag that
allowed me to pursue a doe mule deer on the Kaibab," he says.
"That was followed by my tag this year, which allowed me to
get my first deer with a new rifle."
Chris's father Donald says, "Kudos to the Arizona Game and
Fish Department for their junior hunt opportunities and reduced-price
junior licenses. Hopefully, other state wildlife agencies will see
the wisdom of not making kids wait until they're older to start
hunting with an experienced mentor. In today's world, if they wait
too long, other interests can get in the way of an outdoor lifestyle.
And we need all the responsible outdoorsmen we can get to insure
the future of our hunting and fishing heritage."
of changes this year to big game hunt seasons
Don't forget: You can apply online again this year
Rory Aikens, public information officer, Arizona Game and Fish Department
Hunters will want to get copies of this year's hunt regulations
when they are available online and via hunting license sales dealers:
There are lots of changes this year to the big game hunt seasons,
in large part to assist efforts to retain and recruit hunters.
Arizona Game and Fish Commission on April 22 set the commission
orders for deer, elk, pronghorn, turkey, javelina, bighorn sheep,
buffalo, bear, and mountain lion, along with the small game hunting
seasons, predator/furbearer seasons, and trapping seasons.
newly adopted hunt regulations will be available online at the Arizona
Game and Fish Department's Web site at azgfd.gov
by the first week of May. The printed regulations should be available
at license dealers throughout the state by mid-May. The fall hunt
application deadline is 7 p.m. (MST) June 13. Hunters can again
apply online for the big game hunts this year at azgfd.gov
is a quick summary of changes this year:
- The online
application process is again available this year.
- There are
fall javelina big game hunt permit tags available this year.
- Bonus points
and loyalty points now also apply to javelina, turkey and bear.
- A 10-percent
non-resident cap now applies to bighorn sheep, buffalo, all antlered
deer, bull elk, javelina, antelope and turkey. There is no longer
a 15-percent bighorn sheep set-aside of hunt permit-tags for non-residents.
- The $5 application
fee per applicant will no longer be refunded on rejected applications.
must be 10 years old by deadline day (June 13) to apply for bonus
points. However, if applying for a hunt, applicants must be 10
years old by the beginning date of any hunt they select.
- Hunters are
required to physically check-in for bear and mountain lion kills.
deer hunters are still required to report their harvest; compliance
for this requirement last year was low.
- The 20-percent
bonus point pass, meaning that 20-percent of tags in each hunt
will be set aside for applicants with the highest number of bonus
points, now applies to bighorn sheep, buffalo, antelope, bear,
deer, elk, javelina and turkey.
- Metro unit
numbers and boundaries have changed. Units 4A and 5A also changed.
Branch Chief Leonard Ordway said the department conducted an exhaustive
effort to come up with strategies and efforts to increase hunter
retention and recruitment, including maximizing hunting opportunities
where feasible. Those recommendations resulted in a lot of small
structure modifications this year, and even some significant changes,
such as establishing some limited fall hunting for javelina.
proposed changes, such as having an earlier draw for elk and pronghorn
antelope, will be implemented next year (some require rule changes
before being implemented).
commission meeting wasn't the only time public input has been gathered
during the hunt-regulation process. During January and February,
the Arizona Game and Fish Department conducted 11 public meetings
throughout the state that were attended by approximately 600 people.
The department also received approximately 350 written comments,
mostly via e-mail.
of all the proposed changes this year, we received what may be a
record amount of public comment, which shows we have a robust process
in place," Ordway said.
area of ongoing concern, Ordway said, is the lack of reporting this
past year by archery deer hunters. He explained that as of last
year, successful archery deer hunters were required to contact the
Game and Fish Department by person or via phone within 10 days of
harvesting a deer. Unfortunately, department analysis indicates
that only 25 to 30 percent of the successful archers complied with
the new requirement last year.
archery report-in process was put in place to gather data on archery
harvest rather than going to a full draw system for archery.
noted that both mountain lion and bear hunters have mandatory check-ins
within 48 hours of harvesting an animal. "The mountain lion check-in
requirement is new this year," he said.
piece of good news, Ordway said, comes from the small game arena:
the Gambel's and scaled quail harvest was almost 1.5 million birds
this past season, which is the best quail harvest since the early
from the field: successful HAM javelina hunt
By Jean Wilson, Yuma, Ariz.
key to any hunt, big game or small, is being in the right place
at the right time. And how do you figure what that right place at
the right time may be? You don't, at least not for certain. Other
hunters may disagree with me, but a lot of a hunter's success usually
turns out being pure luck. We can prepare, we can scout and we can
go by past experiences, but it still depends on what the animals
will decide to do and when they'll decide to do it--like playing
a guessing game.
When opening day of the 2006 HAM javelina season arrived, my son
Kevin and I were more than ready. We had practiced long and hard
with the pistols we planned to hunt with. We arrived at our campsite
in Game Management Unit 18B near Bagdad, Ariz. the previous day,
set up camp and were fully prepared to spend the full season going
after our "choice" javelinas.
It was up and at 'em early that Friday. After eating a hardy breakfast,
we headed for the hills where we "knew" the javelina were
bound to be. After climbing up one hill after another, we prepared
to head off to the right to the area we'd planned to hunt. But first,
we used binoculars to scan down a hillside to the left.
Let me tell you right now how helpful (and necessary) binos are.
They save foot power and energy like all get out! Binos helped us
spot a herd of at least seven javelina, completely unaware of our
presence, hanging toward the bottom of the hill. Kevin was the first
to spot them. Shooting a Smith & Wesson Model 500 Magnum revolver,
he chose his javelina and got his shot in first--an instant success.
The animal rolled down the hill without another move of any kind.
I followed, sighting in a javelina that was running up the hill.
Shooting my Smith & Wesson .357-caliber Magnum pistol, I got
my first javelina ever! After waiting a while, we crept our way
down the hill and over to where Kevin's javelina was, got it field
dressed, then went back uphill to recover mine and get it field
dressed. Kevin's javelina weighed in at 48 pounds, mine weighed
52 pounds (field dressed). What a super hunt! We'll have some mighty
fine meat for some time to come. But when I think about it, we still
just happened to be at the right place at the right time.
I'd planned for my 12-year-old grandaughter, Cari, a graduate of
the hunter education class in Yuma, to come down from Kingman for
the long weekend to enjoy the hunt with us. Because our success
came early, she didn't arrive in time, and she was definitely disappointed.
She did, however, get in on the scouting to help other hunters in
the camp area that weekend, and she is more than ready to try her
luck on our next big game hunt (hopefully archery elk this fall).
During our hunt, we discovered a really useful tool. The T-Post
Stepper by Lobo Products is tremendous in assisting a person climb
over barbed wire fences that are on most mountains and tall hills.
It's compact and inexpensive.
After getting back to camp and skinning our javelina for the trip
home, we wrapped them in cheese cloth game bags and hung them in
a tree for safe-keeping, then spent the rest of our hunt time assisting
the other hunters in attempting to locate their javelina. Sadly,
nobody saw any javelina in the area after ours were harvested. We
would like to give a huge "thank you" to those other hunters
who helped in hauling our javelina out of the field that first day
out. Hunters are like that--they never hesitate to help others.
Wild Turkey Federation, Arizona Chapter
By Bernardo P. Velasco, state chapter president
How did your group get
started? The National Wild Turkey Federation started in 1973
at a time when there were only about 1.3 million wild turkeys in
the entire United States (today there are about 7 million). This
was particularly alarming to many turkey hunters nationally, who
decided to take action. The current state chapter of the NWTF was
started in 1993 by Judge Richard Fields, at that time a practicing
lawyer in Tucson, Ariz. The state currently has 12 active chapters,
with at least two or three more coming on board this year.
is NWTF’s purpose? The NWTF works toward the conservation
of wildlife and the preservation of hunting. As such, the organization
works in partnership with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to
transplant Merriam's wild turkeys within the state and relocate
Gould's wild turkeys within the state and from Mexico. There are
now Gould's in the following mountain ranges: Huachucas, Chiricahuas,
Catalinas, Pinalenos, Galiuros and Santa Ritas. These populations
appear to be thriving, and with a little luck and a lot of rain,
hunting may soon be upon us. The organization is also actively involved
in Guzzlers for Gobblers, which provides water development projects
to help turkeys and other wildlife have sustainable access to water.
many members do you have? There are now 500,000 members throughout
the country. The state of Arizona has about 1,000 members. This
number will increase as new chapters are formed in Prescott and
else does NWTF do? The NWTF also sponsors events such as Women
in the Outdoors, Wheeling Sportsmen (disabled hunters), and JAKES
(youth) activities. Individual chapters throughout the state do
charitable work by distributing turkeys on Thanksgiving Day and
gifts at Christmas to the less fortunate.
the conservation spotlight is shining on NWTF, what would you like
to say? My message to the hunting public is, "Join the
NWTF." We rank third in the nation for using monies raised
for the express purpose they were donated.
can people reach you? The Web site for the NWTF is www.nwtf.org.
Arizona chapter information can be accessed from that Web site.
The current state chapter president is Bernardo P. Velasco. You
can contact him at (520) 205-4630 (work) or (520) 982-5457 (cell).
The regional director is Jim Warren, who can be reached at (520)
back to top
opportunities for hunters
By Sandy Reith, volunteer coordinator, Arizona Game and Fish Department
The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s volunteer
program provides opportunities for volunteers to participate firsthand
in managing Arizona’s wildlife resources. Our goal is to provide
you with a congenial and cooperative atmosphere where you can build
relationships with staff and other volunteers, and gain knowledge
about Arizona wildlife and wildlife management. We recognize that
your time is important and strive to provide rewarding and educational
listed some opportunities below that we think you might find interesting.
To learn about other opportunities or to submit information about
a project that would benefit from our volunteers, check
our volunteer page.
20-21 (half-day on May 21)
Fence removal in the Big Lake area
Volunteers will help with fence removal. This project is being done
in conjunction with the Arizona Elk Society. Contact Arizona Game
and Fish Department Volunteer
Coordinator Sandy Reith at (623) 236-7680.
Ongoing project: habitat restoration for pronghorn and grassland
Volunteers will be using loppers and hand saws to thin juniper south
of Mormon Lake at Mud Lake, on Forest Road 82 (Kinnikinick Lake
Road). Dates are May 20, June 17, July 22, Aug. 19, Sept. 23, Oct.
14, all at 8:30 a.m. Contact Arizona Game and Fish Department Volunteer
Coordinator Sandy Reith at (623) 236-7680.
project: range safety officers needed at Ben Avery Shooting Facility
Responsibilities include checking the safe condition of customer
firearms, observing participants while they are shooting on the
range, maintaining safe operation of the shooting line, and providing
superior customer service by answering customer questions about
firearms. Volunteers shoot for free at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility.
Contact Arizona Game and Fish Department Volunteer
Coordinator Sandy Reith at (623) 236-7680.
2 No. 2 April 2006
In this issue:
Follow the link below to unsubscribe from this mailing,
to change other account subscriptions or to change your e-mail address
and contact information. Edit
us your stories and questions!
We welcome mail from readers and will feature the following in each
Do you have a photo and story you’d like to share about your
recent hunting trip? We’d like to include one hunter's story
in each issue of Hunting Highlights. Send your picture and a brief
story to the Hunting
Do you have a photo and story about a youth hunt (your own, or that
of your child or grandchild)? We’d like to share one junior
hunter’s story in each issue of Hunting Highlights. Send your
picture and a brief story to the Hunting
Are you excited about the mission and activities of your wildlife
conservation organization? In the Conservation Spotlight, our readers
will share your excitement. To get your group into the spotlight,
e-mail the Hunting
a wildlife manager
Is there something you’ve always wanted to ask a game warden?
All questions are fair game in this regular feature. If you’ve
got a question for our wildlife managers, e-mail the Hunting
education classes are scheduled throughout the year in many
locations around the state. This list is updated weekly and new
classes are being offered all the time.
If you are planning on hunting in another state, please check with
that state well in advance of your hunt to see if proof of hunter
education is required.
Remember our safety phrase: T.A.B. T=Treat every gun as if it were
loaded. A=Always point your muzzle in a safe direction. B=Be sure
of your target and what is beyond. Happy hunting!
bills important to the hunting community have been making their
way through Arizona's legislative process this session. Two that
have been approved by the Legislature and recently signed into law
by the governor are:
- Hunter Harassment. This bill makes it a
class 2 misdemeanor for anyone to interfere with lawful hunting
activity. It specifically lists eight violations.
- Nonresident Big Game Permits; Limits. This
bill mandates that the Arizona Game and Fish Commission shall limit
the number of big game permits awarded to nonresidents during random
drawings to 10 percent or fewer of the total awarded. There is a
provision that, in extraordinary circumstances, the commission may,
at a public meeting, increase the number of permits issued to nonresidents
in a random drawing if, on separate roll call votes, the members
unanimously support the finding of an extraordinary circumstance
and adopt the increased number of nonresident permits for the hunt.
(Note: The Arizona Game and Fish Commission has separately approved
administrative rules that limit nonresident permits to no more than
10 percent of the total on a per-hunt basis).
bill that has been approved by the Legislature and will be submitted
to the governor for her signature is:
- Illegal Hunting; Penalties (with wildlife feeding amendment attached)
- This bill increases the fines for the illegal taking of wildlife.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department would be able to permanently
revoke, or suspend for a period of five years or more, a person's
hunting privileges for repeat violations, unlawful taking of trophy
or endangered species, or taking three times the established limit.
The bill creates a civil assessment and revocation system based
on the number of convictions an individual has for unlawful taking
or wounding of wildlife. Another provision in the bill makes it
a petty offense to feed wildlife (with certain exceptions); this
latter provision applies only in counties with a population larger
than 280,000 people (currently Maricopa and Pima counties). A petty
offense carries a fine of up to $300.
Volunteer Appreciation Week
of April 23-29 is National Volunteer Appreciation Week. The Arizona
Game and Fish Department would like to thank all of the volunteers
who contributed their time and services in assisting the department
with wildlife and habitat conservation projects. Your efforts are
Chicken fried turkey
- 1 skinned,
cleaned (without the innards), de-boned turkey
- 1-1/2 teaspoon
- 1/8 teaspoon
- 1 cup flour
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup milk
up skinned and de-boned turkey into strips suitable for frying.
To make batter, combine flour, seasoned salt and pepper, then stir
in mixture of egg and milk until well mixed. To cook, put enough
cooking oil in a large skillet to cover the bottom to a level of
approx. 1/2 inch. Heat oil to 375 F. Dip turkey pieces into batter,
coating evenly. Put a few pieces at a time in the hot oil and fry
until brown. Place on a towel and allow to drain. Now the best part!
Serve lightly coated with honey.
April 28: Spring turkey opens in selected units, opens
May 5 in other selected units.
April 28: Archery-only spring bear opens in selected units, opens
May 3 in other selected units.
May 31: Correction period deadline for correcting errors on manually
submitted fall big game hunt paper applications.
June 13 (7 p.m. MST): Deadline for receiving fall 2006 big game
hunt applications for deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, turkey
Thank you hunters!
Arizona’s rich outdoor heritage is enjoyed by all, thanks
to hunters like you, whose purchase of hunting equipment supports
wildlife management and habitat enhancement in the Grand Canyon
State. When you purchase a rifle, ammunition, archery equipment
and other sporting gear, you pay a federal excise tax and import
duties. Since 1937, this money has been collected by the federal
government and redistributed to the states using a formula based
on hunting license sales and the state’s land area. In 2004,
that meant over $5 million for game management in Arizona. This
money paid for game surveys, hunter education classes, wildlife
water catchment construction and wildlife research, among other
projects. Hunters like you are part of the largest and most successful
wildlife conservation programs in the world… Thank you.