For Colorado Public Lands Day on May 18th, 2019, the Colorado Chapter of BHA held a Learn to Hunt Turkey Seminar in Gunnison. The event featured an educational seminar, a target shooting field component, and a mentored turkey hunt. Gabby Zaldumbide, a new Colorado Chapter Leader, spearheaded this event as a way to celebrate her one-year anniversary of being a hunter, give back to the greater hunting community, and show some love to Colorado public lands.
The event began at 10 AM with a presentation on Colorado turkey conservation by Brandon Diamond, Gunnison’s friendly local District Wildlife Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. He discussed the history of turkeys in North America, ranging from their large population pre-settlement and their downward spiral to 30,000 birds by the early 1900s. He went over reintroduction methods, conservation efforts, and then reviewed each of the Colorado turkey subspecies: Merriams and Rio Grandes. His talk provided the background knowledge needed for the next presentation on hunting methods.
Teddy Evans, a 35-year Crested Butte resident reviewed turkey hunting methods ranging from blinds to spot and stalk. He demonstrated all the varieties of turkey calls including his own hand-made wing bone calls. His hunting vest was emptied out on a large table while he told the 12 attendees what he keeps in it and why. Teddy also brought skins of an Eastern, a Merriams, and a Rio Grande to show the audience subtle differences between each subspecies. His love of turkeys and flair for teaching quickly inspired the audience to go look for turkeys themselves.
Gabby concluded the educational component with a presentation on turkey processing, storing, and cooking methods. She reviewed different ways to pluck a turkey, how to break it down into individual parts, and which organs you should save from the gut pile. Next, she went over how to clean the meat so it’s ready for the refrigerator or the vacuum sealer and freezer. Gabby concluded by sharing a few simple recipe ideas for breast meat, leg and wing meat, and organs including the heart, gizzard, and liver. After sharing some cooking and recipe resources, 10 of the 12 attendees prepared to head out to the shooting range to sight in their shotguns.
Attendees reconvened at the public shooting range within Hartman Rocks, just outside Gunnison. Gabby reviewed shooting safety measures, and once everyone had hearing and eye protection, everyone lined up to take turns shooting. Many paper turkeys bit the dust that afternoon.
Three of the Learn to Hunt Turkey’s attendees chose to complete a mentored turkey hunt the following morning. Gabby and her boyfriend and fellow BHA member, Hunter, took their professor Dr. Kate Clark and her husband Brian to a favorite public land turkey hunting spot. They set out at 4:15 AM for a patch of juniper and oak forest near Montrose. After about an hour of hiking and calling, they heard their first gobble. He was close; about 100 yards away. Kate and Brian used their new turkey hunting knowledge to get set up, sit down, and attempt to call in this public land tom. After 20 minutes of sitting, the gobbler had seemingly vanished into thin air. They packed up and kept walking in the direction of another far-away turkey. Even though their souvenirs for the day were one old mule deer shed and a single turkey feather, Kate and Brian declared that they would be back for more turkey hunting. Brian even put in for elk tags for the first time this year. Hopefully, they will become life-long hunters.
Due to the success of this event, Gabby is hoping to hold additional Learn to Hunt seminars to continue recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts. If you are in the Gunnison area, please feel welcome to reach out to her or the Colorado Leadership Team if you have any ideas, suggestions, or are looking to be more active in BHA. Since Gunnison County consists of 82 percent public lands, what better way is there to celebrate Public Lands Day other than continuing Gunnison’s love and appreciation of them?