Third Annual Arizona Juniors Turkey Hunting Camps
First Lady of Hunting®
It was my pleasure to be a part of the third annual Arizona Juniors Turkey Hunting Camps along with other NWTF representatives Scott Lerich, NWTF Regional Biologist; Peggy Anne Vallery, NWTF National Board Member; and Steve Sams, President, Arizona NWTF Chapter.
Juniors Hunting Camps are sponsored by multiple state and national agencies and organizations. The number of volunteers needed to plan, organize and carry out three separate events of this magnitude simultaneously is staggering. This one of the best run programs I have ever seen for involving kids with the outdoors and hunting. Everyone involved is to be commended for their efforts of recruiting and retaining hunters in Arizona.
Part of my journey to the first Turkey Camp took me through the beautiful Salt River Canyon. I agree this is hardly the typical turkey habitat.
Outside of Greer, Arizona, at a place called the Sheep Corral, is where our first Turkey Camp was set up. Due to the devastating Wallow fire that swept over much of the region the previous year, the number of youth hunters was reduced. As you will note on the poster, this offered a prime opportunity for everyone to learn from biologists about the effect wildfire has on habitat and wildlife.
Camp helpers, guides, cooks and mentors were scurrying about getting ready for three days of hunting, learning and fun at the Unit 23 Sheep Corral camp.
Parents and young hunters were busy setting up tents and campers the evening before the hunt. Most of these families traveled considerable distances for their kids to participate in this free turkey hunting opportunity. Notice how many preteen girls were pitching in and taking part.
These young turkey hunters patrolled the camp stopping to visit with everyone and ask hunting questions.
At an altitude of over 9,000 ft. a roaring fire feels nice in the evenings.
The heart of any camp is the kitchen and here Woody Farnsworth, head cook and camp master, discusses the evening menu with Steve Sams.
Woody recruits family and friends to help with the meal preparation.
Arizona Game and Fish officers assist in all kinds of ways to further the fun and success of the young turkey hunters. Here NWTF Regional Biologist, Scott Lerich, hopes to get a hot tip on the location of a good gobbler for the morning hunt.
Young hunters focus their attention to each speaker as they offer safety advice and hunting tips before the hunt.
Scott explains turkey anatomy and shot placement to the anxious audience.
Each of the three camps held a special drawing to choose a kid that would hunt with me. Grace was my first young ward. Her father and an Arizona Game and Fish officer accompanied us. We heard some gobblers and hens but no shot opportunities. Yes, that is a snow bank behind us. We were between 9,000 & 10,000 ft up at this location.
This happy young man brought in a beautiful Merriams gobbler his first morning out.
Every youth is mentored by either a parent, a guide or both to help them be both safe and successful.
It was soon time to leave the Unit 23 Sheep Pen and check out Unit 1 Turkey Camp. This camp had over 60 kids registered, some of whom had also enjoyed a successful opening morning hunt. Peggy and I congratulated this young hunter on his dandy bird. Notice all of the participating organizations on the banner. I was very pleased to see this much joined support for the future of turkey hunting in Arizona.
An AGAF officer helps explain the road system and likely hot hunting spots to the young man who drew me as his hunting partner.
My partner for the afternoon hunt was extremely safe, knowledgeable and mannerly. I really enjoyed spending time in the turkey woods with him and his father. He proudly showed me his new camo clothes and turkey vest, which he had bought with his own money earned from doing odd jobs. We never got in to turkeys but it was an afternoon well spent.
There were a good many younger siblings enjoying the camping life and activities offered to them, such as archery and air gun shooting.
Once again, while everyone is out hunting and playing the camp staff is hard at work preparing another good meal.
It takes a lot of hands to cook and serve food for an army of hungry kids. These guys did a remarkable job.
I was surrounded by kids at every camp, most of them commenting about seeing me on TV. I called this group the "hen and chicks".
Unit 1 camp officials and NWTF representatives Peggy, Steve, and I stop for a few quick photos before tackling yet another winding road to the next camp.
About an hour from Payson we found Unit 5 Camp at the V Bar V Ranch. This spacious camp is owned by the University of Arizona. The altitude here is around 7,500 ft and the scenery is beautiful.
Many of the original ranch buildings give this camp a real old west flavor.
Especially the "necessary" house!
Unit 5 camp had the most participants of all. I didn't get the final head count but almost 100 kids were registered. There were many entire family units, including grandparents, in camp. Several interesting speakers took turns educating and entertaining the camo crowd during the midday lull.
NWTF friends are always strategizing about future events.
This photo just seemed to sum up so much of what so many of us are about. Families, the outdoors, hunting, and the American Flag.
What is hunt camp without a proper bull session?
Camp officials made sure each kid got cool hunting prizes.
There was a lot of turkey calling practice going on in anticipation of the afternoon hunt.
Even those too young to hunt got in some calling action and new gear modeling.
This pair of JAKES are proud of their new NWTF T-shirts and hunting video.
Our hunting heritage is in the hands of caring parents, experienced mentors and dedicated conservation organizations who make it possible for our youth to learn woodsmanship, hunting, and firearm safety lessons.
This darling young huntress scored her first turkey while hunting with her father at the Unit 5 Turkey Camp.
The final draw for my hunting partner was won by this young lady from Phoenix.
She and her dad were new to turkey hunting but so very enthusiastic about learning. Riley and I had a long sit and conversation during the afternoon hunt. She amazed me with her diverse knowledge and safe gun handling. I introduced her to a variety of turkey calling techniques and she described to me about her pet chickens and younger siblings. When our group returned to camp she sincerely told everyone that although we didn't see any turkeys she sure had a lot of fun. So did I.
The Arizona State NWTF Chapter hosted or participated in each of these three mentored JAKES turkey hunting camps for junior hunters and their families as part of a recruitment and retention effort in cooperation with the Arizona Game and Fish Department and numerous wildlife and outdoor organizations. The camps are free to the participants and their families. The three camps are located across the state in or adjacent to Arizona Game and Fish Department hunt units that have over the counter Juniors Turkey Tags. The emphasis of the camps is the recruitment of new hunters. The camps run from Thursday evening through noon on Sunday. Hunting commences on Friday morning.
Similar programs also offered to Arizona youths are jack rabbit, quail, javalina, dove, predator, antelope, deer, elk, and fishing camps.
It is certainly fun to be an outdoors kid in Arizona!
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