|Steve Sams holds a hen Merriam’s turkey prior to releasing her on the Upper Verde River.|
Steve Sams made a career of conservation, and Field and Stream magazine noticed. The longtime publication features the Prescott Valley resident as one of its "Heroes of Conservation" for the month of March.
Sams graduated from being a Minnesota Boy Scout, FFA member, State Star Forester and more, to a 37-year stint with the U.S. Forest Service.
During his time in Payson he started an Adopt a Trail program that has grown to 1,100 volunteers.
"It went from nothing to a really cool trail system," he said.
He's raised pheasants, and mentored more than 2,000 youth through pheasant hunts and turkey camps.
A 25-year volunteer with the National Wild Turkey Federation, Sams serves as president of the State Chapter in addition to being vice president of the local chapter Yavapai Yelpers.
"Being president of the State Chapter just consumes me," Sams said. "I needed to lighten my load."
He did that by training a cadre of 18 dedicated instructors so he could retire after 27 years as a hunter education instructor.
"I felt good about turning it over," Sams said.
He emphasized "no one does anything alone."
"I'm fortunate to get to work with a lot of cool people in Arizona that share a passion for the outdoors," he said.
For example, he said, the annual youth turkey camps in three locations - Happy Jack, in the White Mountains, and on the Mogollon Rim between Payson and Heber - each involve hosting 100 kids and their families over three days of "really intense stuff."
"We feed them, instruct them, and offer all kinds of activities from archery to varmint calling, besides turkey hunting," he said. "It's a major production."
He is a charter member of the Hunting and Angling Heritage Work Group, which now brings together more than 30 sportsmen's groups.
"It's the best way to maximize our impact," he said of organizations such as Elk, Quail and Turkey Federations working together. "That would not have happened 10 years ago."
The reason, he said, is simple. When numbers in the various organizations began to plummet, members realized new generations were not learning about conservation.
"So instead of competing with each other for members, we're working together to stop that bleeding," Sams said, adding that Arizona Game and Fish provides good support, as well. "Everybody turns his hat backwards so that no single organization is the focus."
Field and Stream began Heroes of Conservation in 2005 to recognize outstanding efforts by individuals who dedicate their own time to the spirit of conservation volunteerism.
"The people nominated for that award - recognition is the last thing they're doing it for," Sams said. "I just enjoy seeing the smile on kids' faces."
See the article at: www.fieldandstream.com/heroes/conservation/month/march-2013.