Trout fishing, finding elk antler sheds, and, of course, luring “old tom turkey” with an artificial call highlight springtime in the high country of Arizona. This spring had the extra bonus of an over-the-counter junior turkey hunt, which took place one week before the regular hunt. Many families took advantage of this opportunity for camping and, of course, trying to outsmart a wily gobbler into shotgun range.
Youngsters between the ages of 10 and 17 could buy an over-the-counter spring turkey tag if they had completed the firearms gun safety class provided by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The entire family often takes this course, which is an obvious benefit for a better awareness of gun safety in the woods as well as in the home.
It is a common occurrence for parents and yes, even grandparents, to take the course numerous times depending on the number of children in the family.
Bailey Sylvester, a 15-year-old freshman at Payson High School, was accompanied by her grandfather, Dick Henry, on opening day in Unit 23. She had already taken numerous turkeys in previous years with her grandfather doing the calling. But this season was different, she wanted to do it all herself, which is very difficult to do. Calling a bird with a box call creates a hand motion, which can often be detected by the radar eyes of a smart gobbler!
Bailey began calling by imitating the yelps and clucks, which are the noises turkeys make. When it all came together, “old longbeard” showed himself in a full strut at a distance of 20 yards. She touched off a single round from her 12-gauge shotgun and Bailey had her bird. Her trophy was a 22-pound turkey with an 11-inch beard, plus the admiration of her grandfather as he was watching from a short distance away.
Bailey finds time to enjoy the outdoors with her family while taking a rigorous class schedule at PHS where she is an honor roll student. She is also very active in volleyball where she hopes to continue on the varsity level. Bailey is one of a growing number of young women who have a passion for hunting and fishing in the Arizona outdoors.
These expanding junior hunts in Arizona are providing more opportunities for families to create quality time with the camping experience and the pursuit of big game.
This weekend, enjoy the Rim Country, God’s creation.