Turkey Calling At Shoot For The Heart

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“Talking Turkey” will be tops on the agenda when the next of the wildly popular Shoot for the Heart outdoor seminars is held March 15 at Mountain Bible Church.

However, the turkey they’ll be mulling will not be three strikes in bowling, a person considered undesirable or a country in southeast Europe.

Rather the discussion will be about the wild fowl that by the early 1900s had been wiped out in North America, victims of habitat destruction and commercial harvest.

Steve Sams, Shoot for the Heart’s guest for the evening, might tell the audience it was hunters, wildlife agencies and conservation groups who intervened when turkey numbers plummeted to help populations rebound dramatically.

Sams should know his turkey facts — he is widely considered one of the state’s most knowledgeable conservationists when it comes to the species.

In 2012 he received the Roger Lathaman Sportsman’s Service Award from the National Wild Turkey Federation and in 2011 was named the Citizen Contributor of the Year by the Western Area Fish and Wildlife.

In 2004 he retired from the U.S. Forest Service after 37 years of service in five states, seven national forests and six ranger districts.

He has a bachelor’s of science degree in Forest Management from the University of Minnesota and has volunteered as a certified hunter education instructor in five states including Arizona.

He is an active member of the National Wild Turkey Federation and has started chapters in Ruidoso, N.M. and Prescott.

Former Payson Roundup outdoor columnist Dennis Pirch, also a founder of Shoot for the Heart, praises Sams — now a resident of Prescott Valley — as a proven expert on wild turkeys.

Sams’ presentation is expected to include a myriad of turkey trivia including sounds, habitat, tips for calling turkey, species, differences between gobblers and hens, appearance and predators.

Sams says his passion for turkey began in about 1981 in the mountains around Payson where he called in his first wild bird.

Since, he has completed the Royal Slam of Wild Turkeys bagging Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande, Merriam’s and Gould’s species.

Sams says his earliest memories are of camping, fishing and hunting, which led to his career in public land management.

He has hunted for more than 53 years, but now says, “My passion is passing on that love of the outdoors and hunting and shooting activities to others.”

When not leading outdoor seminars, Sams is the owner of Spirit Mountain Traders and is a partner in M&S Dutch Oven Catering in Prescott Valley.

Since the inception of the Shoot for the Heart seminars two years ago, the events have attracted overflow audiences.

The last seminar, on the Yukon Sled Dog Race, drew more than 300. Other seminars have been held on bass fishing, camp cooking, outdoor survival skills, mountain lions, big game tracking, Arizona Coues Whitetail deer and another featured a hunter who survived a wild bear attack in Alaska.

All events are free, the public is welcome and light refreshments are served. The presentation begins at 6 p.m. Call Mountain Bible Church at (928) 472-7800 for details.

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