First Goulds Taken in Arizona in 2002 Hunts.

spectr17

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'Best day of turkey hunting'

Dale Hajek, The Arizona Republic

May 2, 2002


Courtesy of Stephen Smith

Stephen Smith of Tucson became the first Arizonan in more than 60 years to receive a permit-tag to hunt a Gould's turkey in the United States. He bagged the 21 1/2-pound bird Saturday in the Huachuca Mountains.

Sonoita - Stephen Smith already was out the door for a hunting trip in Canada when his wife, Rebekah, ran into the house to answer the phone.

"It's Game and Fish," she told him.

For a moment, Smith couldn't imagine why anybody from the department would be calling him.

"Oh, boy," he remembered thinking at the time. "What did I do?"

Smith, 34, didn't do anything but become the first Arizonan allowed to hunt a Gould's turkey in the United States in more than 60 years.

His application for a permit-tag was randomly drawn by a computer to hunt from April 26 through May 23 in unit 35A, where an estimated 200 Gould's turkeys roam the oak-filled canyons and grass-covered foothills of the Huachuca Mountains in southeastern Arizona.

Smith was among 130 hunters, including 26 from out of state, who applied for the permit-tag issued by Game and Fish in November.

"I don't remember who I talked to that day, but he told me that he was glad it (the permit-tag) went to a native son instead of some guy from Tupelo, Miss., or someplace like that," Smith said.

On Saturday, the fifth-generation Arizonan from Tucson capped what he called an "incredible" day when he bagged the tom at 26 yards using his compound bow.

The bird, which was hanging out with a jake (a yearling gobbler) and three hens, had a 10-inch beard and weighed 21 1/2 pounds.

"We saw 26 birds that day, including 16 gobblers," said Smith, an experienced hunter and sometimes-guide who has taken eight of Arizona's 10 big-game species. "It was wild, the best all-time day of turkey hunting I've ever had."

The previous day wasn't too shabby, either, even though strong, gusty wind ended the hunt by mid-morning.

Shortly after dawn, Smith and his friend, Ronald Gerdes of Hereford, talked turkey with three different gobblers - including one that strutted to within 50 yards of where Gerdes was working both a diaphragm and Lynch's box call.

"He definitely was moving in and then was gone," Gerdes said. "But that's not the first time I've had that happen. If you hit on the right one, they'll often appear like magic."

As a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Gerdes has assisted in several captures and surveys involving wild turkeys. To him, there is no greater comeback story involving wildlife than that of the Gould's.

"It makes you feel good to do it (volunteer)," Gerdes said. "Like I told somebody the other day, when you're helping humans, you sometimes wonder if you're doing them any good. Wildlife always appreciate the help."

For the record, Smith didn't harvest the first Gould's turkey on U.S. soil since the birds were successfully transplanted from Mexico back in the 1980s by Game and Fish and National Wild Turkey Federation volunteers. That distinction belongs to Jim Hascup, a New Jersey hunter who took his bird early last month after bidding $17,500 for "special" Gould's and Merriam's permit-tags at the NWTF's annual convention in Charlotte, N.C.

By statute, special permit-tags are made available to various big-game conservation organizations as a means of raising funds. All proceeds, either through auction or raffle, are then funneled back into the state for management and restoration purposes.

Hascup reportedly has hunted turkeys in every state and completed the "World Slam" (the five U.S. subspecies - eastern, Florida, Rio Grande, Merriam's and Gould's - and the oscellated, which can be found on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula) six times.

According to the NWTF, Hascup's $17,500 bid also is believed to be the most money ever paid for a turkey hunt.


Reach the reporter at dale.hajek@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-8156.
 

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And he did it with a bow! AWESOME!!! I only wish there had been a way to ensure the raffled tag would have killed the first one. I have no problems with the dude paying big bucks for the tag, just think it would be cooler to have one of your own do it first. Awesome!
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