Springtime in the Arizona high country is when winter is losing its grip, the snow banks are disappearing, and trout fishing becomes the main focus of outdoor enthusiasts.
But, there is another group of the hook and bullet fraternity that are wandering the woods, turkey hunters.
The spring hunt for the male turkey has long been a tradition throughout our great nation. The wild turkey population is growing in most states and is a definite success story.
The wild turkey population has grown to over six million birds from just a few thousand in the last century thanks to the team effort of the National Wild Turkey Federation with the many game and fish state agencies.
Now there are five species of wild turkeys in the USA, which include the Eastern, Osceola, Merriam’s, Rio Grande, and the Gould’s and the males all have a similar trait in the spring, they gobble.
The Rim Country and White Mountains of Arizona are the home of the Merriam turkey, which is considered one of the 10 big game animals of our state.
There are three absolutes for the avid outdoorsman in the spring — bass bite, big trout cruise the shallows, and turkeys gobble in the early morning. All can be addictive to a grown man.
Being in the woods watching the eastern sky beginning to show light waiting for the good morning call of a male turkey in a roost tree is the only place to be for the adrenalin rush of the first gobble.
The special permit drawing for the spring gobbler hunt was last October and those youths and adults with tags are the camo-clad group waiting on ridge tops for that distinct call. The goal is to call old tom from the roost tree to within shotgun range for the perfect shot.
The youth turkey hunt recently finished for many first-time hunters in the 10-16 years age group, provided they completed the national firearms safety course.
Arena Haught, who’ll be a senior at Payson High School this fall, enjoys the thrill of big game hunting. She has been successful in placing a tag on a javelina and whitetail buck in her brief hunting experiences and now old long beard.
It was the fourth morning when the gobbler came to the call that her father Destry was using.
He is a longtime successful bear and lion hunter, but he said there was nothing more exciting than watching that turkey come into shotgun range fanning and strutting his stuff.
When his daughter pulled the trigger, and the bird dropped, the excitement of the hunt was complete.
I received a text within minutes, “My daughter shot her first bull turkey” and a photo. After I stopped laughing, I corrected him, “It’s a gobbler, old tom, or longbeard, but it is not a bull turkey.” That’s reserved for cattle and elk. What would you expect from a longtime cattleman?
When not hunting or working the family ranch, Arena is also a varsity basketball player besides being an honor roll student in the classroom. She has her sights set on hunting elk when she can draw that coveted permit. She is the daughter of Terri and Destry Haught of Tonto Basin.
This week, enjoy your family and take them on an adventure in the Arizona outdoors, God’s creation.