Skip to content

A Legacy of Conservation: Gould’s Turkey Survey Highlights Collaborative Success

This past weekend, volunteers gathered in the Huachuca Mountains and Canelo Hills of southern Arizona for the annual Gould’s survey, in partnership with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. This ongoing collaboration reflects another year of successful efforts to conserve the distinctive turkey population in the region.

April 18, 20242 min read
Gould's Turkey

The Sky Islands are located here and this is where the Gould’s wild turkey thrives. This landscape, characterized by its untamed beauty, hosts the largest population of Gould’s wild turkeys in the United States, reflecting the unique and diverse wildlife that calls this area home.

In the 1980s, efforts to reintroduce the Gould’s turkey to southeast Arizona began, with over 280 birds translocated from Mexico to Arizona until 2006. To meticulously monitor the population dynamics of Gould's wild turkeys, thus aiding in their conservation and providing crucial insights for management and hunting decisions, John Millican, president of the NWTF Huachuca Gould's Chapter, and Fort Huachuca biologist Sheridan Stone spearheaded the Gould’s surveys in the 1990s.

Since 2002, the establishment of standardized survey routes has been integral to the annual Gould’s surveys. The surveys serve as a cornerstone in identifying the expansion of Gould’s turkey across these mountain ranges, understanding habitat preferences and evaluating annual recruitment rates. Through the accumulation of data over time, the Arizona Game and Fish Department gains valuable insights into population fluctuations, facilitating a strategic, long-term approach to harvest management. This data-driven understanding also informs decisions regarding future hunt permit allocations for Gould's turkeys.

Throughout the two days of this year’s survey, dedicated volunteers traversed routes across the mountains, documenting nearly 200 Gould’s turkeys, over 100 of which were identified as gobblers. It's important to note that these figures do not encompass the significant population of birds residing on private lands, indicating the substantial presence of Gould’s turkeys in the region.

The survey and accompanying camp, organized by the Huachuca Gould’s NWTF Chapter, offer a unique opportunity for a diverse community to gather, bond and share knowledge. Volunteers span from seasoned hunters and veteran survey participants to newcomers eager to delve into the world of wild turkeys and conservation. Notably, several permit holders for the upcoming Gould's hunt also participated, seizing the opportunity to enhance their understanding of turkey behavior and refine their readiness for the hunt.

Throughout the weekend, the Huachuca Gould’s Chapter provided meals during the camp, prepared by the chapter’s camp chef, Wayne Kaiser, who incorporated wild game into each meal. As the sun set on Saturday evening, participants gathered for dinner, where the chapter orchestrated a raffle featuring donated items, aiming to raise funds for future events. The dinner and raffle served as a fitting conclusion to the day's efforts, allowing everyone to come together in celebration of their hard work during the survey.

In support of the Gould’s turkey population, the Huachuca Gould’s Chapter also actively engages in numerous habitat projects, aiming to sustain and enhance their habitat within the Sky Islands.Through these surveys, habitat restoration work and in-depth research conducted by the Arizona Game and Fish, the understanding of crucial aspects of Gould’s behavior, nesting habits, roost preferences and more is constantly improving. This comprehensive approach aids managers in making informed decisions to support the long-term conservation and sustainability of Gould’s turkey populations.

Thanks to the remarkable achievements in conservation efforts, approximately 80 individuals in Arizona will have the chance to hunt the unique Gould’s turkey subspecies this year. Additionally, reflecting the positive outcomes of these endeavors, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has recently approved an expansion for 2025. This expansion includes the addition of a 10th game management unit, opening a handful of tags in unit 34B.

Filed Under:
  • Healthy Habitats
  • Healthy Harvests
  • Hunting Heritage
  • Wildlife Management