Recent surveys show that Gould’s turkeys — which were once eliminated in Arizona — are now making a comeback in southern Arizona.
The results of a Gould’s turkey survey in the Huachuca Mountains are impressive. A total of 321 Gould’s were observed. The highest number of birds observed during past surveys was 90 in 2004, Arizona Game & Fish Department’s Game Branch chief Leonard Ordway said.
Gould’s turkeys are one of Arizona’s two native wild turkey species. They are slightly larger than Merriam’s turkeys, which are found throughout much of Arizona’s high country. Gould’s turkeys were once found throughout southern Arizona. They were an important food source for those who settled and worked in the rugged lands of southern Arizona years ago. Between the Civil War and World War I, miners working in southern Arizona harvested Gould’s for many of their meals.
By the time Arizona had legal hunting seasons in 1929, Gould’s turkeys had already disappeared from the scene. Gould’s now occupy only a few remote mountain ranges in Arizona. However, these birds are making comeback tracks in the Huachucas and other mountain ranges in the southern part of the state.
During April of this year, 32 volunteers conducted surveys on 29 standardized routes and observed 105 gobblers and 216 hens. Out of the 105 gobblers, 43 were jakes, which are yearling birds.
The surveys this year also contained surveys from private landowners who had property the wild turkeys were known to frequent. These landowners observed 140 turkeys. Two Gould’s gobblers were even reported in the Patagonia Mountains.
In 2004, Gould’s turkeys were also reintroduced to the Pinaleno Mountains near Safford. Last year, 28 Gould’s turkeys were captured and then released into the Pinalenos to bolster the small population there.
All in all, the surveys show that Gould’s turkeys continue to expand their population. The project’s goal is to eventually repopulate Gould’s in their historic range, especially in the sky islands of southern Arizona.
All the Gould’s turkeys that have been reintroduced to Arizona have come from the Sierra Madres of Mexico.
"Without the cooperation of Mexico and the National Wild Turkey Federation, we wouldn’t be beaming about the survey results," said Brian Wakeling, who has been working on the reintroduction program for more than a decade.
"After a couple of decades of hard work, it is gratifying to see such headway being made by the Gould’s turkey population thanks to the tenacity and hard work of a lot of people who just refused to give up," Wakeling said.
FISHING HOT SPOT
Alamo Lake: Last week the fishing was hot at the lake for both bass and crappie. Quarter- and 3 /8-ounce spinnerbaits should boat you at least 20 to 30 bass. Chartreuse, chartreuse/orange, and white are hot colors. Any brushy point is holding fish.
Throw right up to the shoreline and work the spinnerbait back to the boat. Other anglers reported throwing chrome/black crankbaits worked well. Some anglers find soft plastics in 15 to 20 feet of water will produce bigger bass. Crappie anglers report catching 30 to 60 crappies a night under lights with minnows. Catfish are being caught on nightcrawlers, minnows and liver in the upper end of the lake.