Last year, I had the honor of heading up to the Marvin Robbins Memorial Juniors Turkey Hunting Camp which was hosted by the National Wild Turkey Federation. At the camp last year, I was able to see first hand how the National Wild Turkey Federation partnered with multiple other organizations like the Arizona Game and Fish, Arizona Elk Society, The Phoenix Varmit Callers, and many more, to provide a positive and safe learning environment for young hunters just entering the world of turkey hunting.
Since last year was such a positive experience for me as a mentor hunter, I jumped at the chance to help out again. Rich Williams of the Arizona Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, pours his heart and soul into the Marvin Robbins Memorial Juniors Turkey Hunting camp. The camp provides the youth hunter and an accompanying adult (free of charge):
A mentor hunter
Free food (courtesy of the Arizona Elk Society)
Several seminars on turkey hunting and other outdoor skills
Prizes for each youth hunter in camp
A fully equipped archery range
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has been working with the species specific organizations (like NWTF, Arizona Elk Society, etc.) to help create camps that pass on the heritage of hunting to the next generation. The AZGFD has a full list of the mentored hunting camps that serve not only youth hunters, but adults as well. They can be found on the Outdoor Skills page of the AZGFD website
I was able to head out with a father and his two sons on Saturday, and we were able to get into some gobbling early on Saturday morning. Although we were never able to seal the deal on the birds, several other youth hunters were successful over the weekend. Being a part of something like the Marvin Robbins Memorial Juniors Turkey Hunting camp is extremely for me as an outdoorsman. Between the camaraderie of camp and the passing on of the hunting heritage, I look forward to participating with the National Wild Turkey Federation Juniors Camp for many years to come.
I had the distinct pleasure to meet Rich Williams of the Arizona Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation at the HAHWG event that I went to back in January. Rich got to talking about the Junior Turkey Hunting Camps that the NWTF puts on every year and invited me to come up and see what the NWTF is all about. There are several Junior Turkey Hunting Camps put on in Arizona, depending on where a junior hunter draws their tag, and each camp is 100% free of charge for the hunter and their family to come up and enjoy. The camp provides the hunter and their family with food, a mentor hunter who heads out into the field with the junior hunter and their guardian, giveaways/raffles, seminars, and a great atmosphere to enjoy the outdoors.
So Friday after work, with my truck loaded and ready to go, I headed north to check out the Marvin Robbins Memorial Juniors Turkey Hunting Camp at Colcord Ridge Campground. As I shook hands with some old friends, a truck pulled up with a successful junior hunter (pictured below). After the high-fives and handshakes were over the youth hunter (Ben) relayed the exploits of the afternoon. Ben had done all the calling himself and when the first gobbler presented himself, Ben let loose with his shotgun and bagged his first Merriams tom. He was cool, calm and collected and recounted the story like an old pro.
After setting up my tent, I toured around the camp, checking out all the different things that were offered to hunters and non-hunters who were in camp. The Arizona Elk Society graciously had set up and done all the cooking for the weekend. Even though this was not an elk hunting camp, it showed that promoting the heritage of hunting is important, no matter what style or species you like to hunt. The Arizona Elk Society did a fantastic job feeding all the people in camp and the food was absolutely delicious.
There were other activities going on while the hunters trickled back into camp. The Arizona Game and Fish had set up a small archery course for those who wanted to fling a few arrows. The Phoenix Varmit Callers showed up and did a short seminar on predator calling, and Mike Stewart, from Arizona Flycasters, and I did a brief fly casting demonstration and talked about fly fishing in Arizona. The goal of the camp was to not only give junior hunters a great experience in the field, but to introduce non-hunters to the outdoors in a positive way.
Hunters trickled back into camp and dinner was served by the Arizona Elk Society. Camp came alive as hunters relayed the stories of the afternoon and comparing notes on turkey activity. Several birds had been harvested that day, and it was one of the amazing experiences to see a young hunter’s animated face as they recounted the experiences in the field.
After dinner, hunters poured over maps and discussed plans for the morning hunt. Turkeys had been responsive throughout the day, and many hunters had roosted birds in hopes of finding them in the same spot in the morning.
Brenda Valentine, “The First Lady of Hunting”, made an appearance at the Colcord Ridge Camp.
I was honored to meet up with Matt Minshall from Hunt of a Lifetime, and he asked if I’d be interested in heading out in the morning with his group. I jumped at the chance and made plans to head out with a youth hunter, Josh and his older brother.
We were ready to go at 4 in the morning and out of the truck, we walked a couple hundred yards and blew on the old crow call. Immediately, we heard a gobble a bit deeper in the woods. We made several setups and called to the bird, but were unsuccessful at fooling the gobbler. We walked quite a bit and were able to get some responses, but it seemed most of the birds were “henned up” and not interested in coming in to investigate our calls.
Midday Saturday consisted of lunch, a couple of special seminars, a fly casting demonstration, and then gearing up for the evening hunt. Saturday was a tough day of hunting and unfortunately, no one in camp was able to call in any birds. That all changed on Sunday.
After a long day on Saturday, I had plans to head out early on Sunday for some early fishing before heading home. My plans were thwarted when I found out there was french toast and sausage for breakfast. I hung around a bit, ate breakfast and talked to some of the folks who were milling around camp. Before I left, two youth hunters came into camp with beautiful gobblers. They were all smiles as they told the tales of calling in these toms.
As I left camp, I could not help but feel as if I had been a part of something important and timeless. The Arizona Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation is actively sharing the joy and heritage of hunting with youth hunters. Other organizations involved in the HAHWG are doing the same thing.
If you are looking to get involved with mentoring new hunters or if you are interested in getting started hunting, there are opportunities all across the great state of Arizona. I actively am trying to share these on Facebook and the Arizona Outdoor Events Calendar. The Arizona Game and Fish Department also posts this information on their site. As Rich Williams shared with me this weekend, “Someone took the time to teach you the joy of hunting. Who are you going to share it with?”
Spent an unbelievable weekend up north helping out at the Marvin Robbins Memorial Juniors Turkey Camp. The free camp is put on by the National Wild Turkey Federation Valley Longbeards Chapter to get young hunters into the field and bag their first turkey. Good times were had by all and I walked away energized and more impressed by the work of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Arizona Elk Society, and all the volunteers. I’ll be sorting through photos and putting up the full writeup here in a little while.
The story begins a couple weeks back when I knew that I’d be headed to the HAHWG meeting in Yuma. The meeting was in the afternoon, and I figured I could squeeze a couple hours in the morning, to get out in the field and explore this new bit of area. I called my buddy, David Power, from Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club, and asked him what type of hunting opportunities there were for a morning around Yuma. Specifically, I asked about javelina. My usual January archery hunt had been on hiatus with the birth of our gorgeous daughter, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t itching to get after the skunk pig. David told me about the Gila River bottom, and the over the counter non permit tag that was available in Mohawk Valley. He made it clear to me that, although there are pigs there, they are difficult to hunt in the traditional sense of glassing hillsides, as the river bottom is almost impenetrable with brush. Instead, you have to glass the edges of the alfalfa and hay fields and cross your fingers that you catch a pig or two working the fields.
With expectations set very low, I left the valley early on Saturday morning and made it to my destination as the sun was just starting to lighten the morning sky. I drove several roads and glassed a dozen or so fields in search of javelina, but didn’t have much luck. The last spot I checked was also a bust, but I heard a Gambel’s quail call in the distance. As an opportunist, I shrugged into my bird vest and grabbed the scattergun, in order to scratch out a bird or two. Just at that moment, my cell phone rang and it was David.
“I’ve got a big boar working through an alfalfa field. Hurry up”
Out of the vest and back into the truck, I headed back to area he described and sure enough, one of the fields that I had glassed an hour earlier, was now home to a single javelina working through the field. Making a quick plan, I worked the edge of the field, carefully making my way through the head high brush, and quietly slid out of the foliage at about 50 yards from the big male javelina. Settling the sights behind the front shoulder, I touched the trigger and the pig piled where he stood.
As David made his way up, I truly could not believe my good fortune. A low probability morning hunt completely turned around in a matter of minutes. Without David’s help and expertise, I would have been wandering around missing wild flushing Gambel’s. As if that wasn’t enough, David even provided me with a place to skin and clean my javelina, thereby ensuring that my alfalfa fed pig would be clean and ready for a nice green chili. He’s going to get sick of me saying this, but a big thanks to David Power of the Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club for his help and hospitality.
With my javelina skinned, quartered, and on ice, I cleaned up and pointed the truck towards the Yuma Proving Grounds and the Imperial Dam. The HAHWG meeting this year was held at the Hidden Shores RV Village right near the Imperial Dam outside of Yuma. I have written about the Hunting and Angling Heritage WorkGroup before on several occasions, but for those just tuning in, here’s the skinny. The HAHWG is a group of individuals and organizations who are working in conjunction with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to ultimately “preserve our hunting, angling, and wildlife-recreation heritage.” In this day in age, you do not have to look very far to see strong opposition to what we as outdoorsman love and cherish.
One important focus of the Hunting and Angling Heritage WorkGroup is to introduce new hunters and anglers to the sport through free camps put on by the various sportsman’s groups such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, Arizona Elk Society, Youth Outdoors Unlimited and many others. I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of the NWTF junior’s camp for the past several years and it is one of my favorite “hunts” of the year.
The main reason we met in Yuma for this meeting was due to the recent success of this past dove season openerin the city. The city of Yuma collaborated with the Arizona Game and Fish Department as well as the Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club to promote the spectacular dove hunting opportunity in the immediate area. The result of this unique collaboration was an economic boom in the community, as well as a positive experience for new and seasoned hunters. One of the topics that the HAHWG focused on at our meeting was how to replicate this positive experience in other Arizona communities and pass on the heritage of hunting and angling.
In truth I had never been to Yuma before, and was completely unaware of the amazing country and ample outdoor activities that are available. Between the morning javelina hunt, the like-mindedness of HAHWG members, and a tour of Yuma, I’d consider it a pretty successful trip. See you soon Yuma.
The weekend of June 30, I had the opportunity to head to the high country of Arizona and participate in the Hunting and Angling Heritage Workgroup for the second time. The winter meeting was a great opportunity to get introduced to many of the members of the HAHWG, and I was extremely excited by what this group of outdoorsman was doing. The HAHWG’s goal is “to gather leaders in the industry, conservation groups, youth groups and wildlife management professionals to synergistically preserve the hunting angling tradition.” The workgroup is organized by the Arizona Game and Fish Department in coordination with a steering committee. Craig McMullen and Doug Burt of AZGFD do a fantastic job of orchestrating the event, and the special speakers and group discussions were genuine.
The long and short of the Hunting and Angling Heritage workgroup is this: Outdoorsman – hunters, anglers, trappers, etc. – have a vested interest in passing on the heritage of these outdoor activities to the next generation. The HAHWG was formed in order to organize individuals and organizations in order to protect, preserve, and pass on these traditions to the next generation of outdoorsman.
One of the main focuses of the group is to actively mentor and introduce new outdoorsmen to the outdoors and the opportunities that are in our great state. The Arizona Game and Fish has done a great job of showcasing the many FREE camps, clinics, and events that the different organizations put on for the public.
As I continue to follow the efforts of the HAHWG and AZGFD, I am very excited about the future and the lives that will be impacted by the great outdoors. I realize that as an outdoorsman, it is my duty to pass on the knowledge and joy of the outdoors to the next generation, just as my dad, grandfather, uncles, and other various old timers did for me.
My wife and I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to the 11th Annual Arizona Elk Society Banquet this past Friday. My girl is a real trooper and although she tries to understand why I love to hunt and fish, getting dragged to hunting banquets is not at the top of her priority list. Ultimately, I was able to convince her to go and we both had a really nice time hanging out at the National Wild Turkey Federation table with Rich Williams and Steve Sams, talking hunting and fishing over a delicious meal.
The Arizona Elk Society put on a great banquet for a sold out crowd, with all kinds of raffles, silent auctions, and live auctions with Fast and Efficient Service are going back to habitat projects here in Arizona. There were a wide variety of items raffled and auctioned with everything from camping supplies to the coveted AZGFD Commissioners tags. It truly was a special night and one that both my wife and I were proud to be a part of.
The Arizona Elk Society was established to “to raise funds to benefit elk and other wildlife through habitat conservation and restoration and to preserve our hunting heritage for present and future generations.” Every year AES and their volunteers put hours of hard labor into their many work projects, that ultimately benefit all of Arizona’s wildlife. Arizona Elk Society also understands the importance of protecting and preserving the hunting heritage by taking an active roll in getting new and young hunters into the field for a positive hunting experience.
I look forward to going to several of their upcoming events and work projects in the future and being a part of the great things that the Arizona Elk Society is doing. A special thanks to Rich Williams for the invite and many thanks to Steve Clark and his crew from the Arizona Elk Society for putting on such a great banquet.
A couple weeks ago, I received an email from Doug Burt over at Arizona Game and Fish Department explaining how he had found the site and was interested in me coming out to a HAHWG meeting. I thought a bit about the offer knowing full well that it was going to put the kibosh on my last weekend of hunting javelina, but after he gave me the rundown of what HAHWG actually was all about, I could not help but accept.
HAWHG stands for Hunting and Angling Heritage Workgroup whose written purpose is “to gather leaders in the industry, conservation groups, youth groups and wildlife management professionals to synergistically preserve the hunting angling tradition.” There’s some pretty big words in that statement but what I found when I showed up, was a group of outdoorsman who were passionate about preserving the traditions of hunting and fishing, which in this day in age, face many increasingly powerful and numerous enemies. Many in the HAWHG group have dedicated their lives and fortunes to the goal of increasing participation not just hunting and angling, but in all outdoor activities.
Some of the things that really stood out to me about the get-together was how everyone seemed to have captured the same vision of getting the youth involved in the outdoors. From fishing to small game to large game species, every group seemed to realize that if the American tradition of hunting is going to survive and be passed on to our grandchildren, then getting the next group of outdoorsman into the field is of the utmost importance. Each organization wether focused on fish, turkey, elk, small game or other species, all expressed the desire to stop the fractured movement to self promote and instead present more of a coordinated coalition while working together to promote a safe, controlled, and fun outdoor experience.
It was an unbelievable two day event with some unbelievable food provided by the Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club, and I was glad that I had planned to camp out. Because of the cold, a large fire was stoked, and I had the esteemed opportunity to talk to some real outdoorsman and hear about their passions for youth and the wonderful times in the field. When it was all said and done, I even had the chance to get out and blow through a couple boxes of shells on their clay pigeon range.
In the future I hope to be able to attend some of these youth hunts, seminars, and banquets and ultimately spotlight what these great folks are doing here in our great state. Arizona has some phenomenal opportunities and resources and, unfortunately, if these are not protected, they may not see too many more generations. Expect to see more about the HAHWG and these different organizations in the future on Arizona Wanderings. Find out more about these great organizations by following the links below.