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It's ironic that the successful comeback of a threatened species often makes the animal fair game for hunters. That time has come for the wild turkey. Maine and Rhode Island will soon become the 45th and 46th states to allow limited hunting of the once seriously depleted turkey stock.
"It's the best success story in the young history of wildlife conservation," says Gene Smith, editor of Turkey Call, the bimonthly publication of the National Wild Turkey Federation. The turkey's comeback began three decades ago after timbering, other habitat encroachment and poaching had severely depleted the bird's numbers. Early efforts at placing farm-bred turkeys in the wild failed, but then conservationists started trapping and transplanting wild turkeys. The turkey population, down to an estimated 20,000, immediately began to increase. Now there are 1.5 million to 2 million birds; they are found in all states but Alaska.
Although 33 states now allow both fall and spring turkey hunting, it isn't likely the bird will be threatened again soon. The wild turkey is among the wiliest of prey and can see and hear a predator from great distances; only 10% of turkey hunters bag a bird. But those who do are treated to a rare holiday feast. "It's wonderful eating," says Smith, who has a smoked gobbler ready for Christmas dinner. "And wild-turkey hunters aren't after trophies—they eat every bit."
DAD CAN'T COURT ON THIS COURT
As a provision of the NCAA probation for recruiting violations slapped on Georgia's basketball program last June, Bulldog coach Hugh Durham was barred from recruiting players off campus for one year. Because one of his three sons, Jim, is a senior point guard for Athens (Ga.) Academy, Durham has had to petition the NCAA to let him watch his own son play. "It's a question that's reasonably unique," admits David Berst, who is the NCAA's chief enforcement officer.
The NCAA has granted Durham's request, with one restriction: He can't offer a scholarship to anyone he sees play, except his son, who apparently isn't very interested in attending Georgia. "I think my dad's the greatest coach, but I don't think I would want to play for him," says Jim Durham. "I've been around the house for 17 years, and I need to get out."
THE PEOPLE HELPER
Three weeks ago in San Diego, Richard Anthony (Tony) Fitton, 36, a former strength coach at Auburn, was sentenced to 4� years in prison and five years' probation for offenses that included two counts of illegal trafficking in anabolic steroids (SCORECARD, Dec. 9). Last week, at San Diego's Metropolitan Correctional Center, Fitton gave SI's Armen Keteyian and free-lancer Kristina L. Rebelo an insider's view of the steroids trade.
Fitton told distressing tales: of widespread steroid use; of a major West Coast dealer who sells athletes an androgenic-anabolic steroid called Mibolorone, which is approved for use only by veterinarians to prevent female dogs from going into heat; of his own moral underpinnings: "My basic belief was, I was helping people." Fitton said he had sold or given counsel on the use of steroids to strength coaches or athletes at Baylor, South Carolina, Virginia, Temple and Nebraska, among other schools.
Using Nebraska as a case in point, Fitton said that in 1983 and '84 he sold anabolic steroids to several Husker football players and advised them of ways to pass urinalyses given by team doctors to detect steroid use. "I had contacts in the Lincoln gyms," Fitton said. "I got people referred to me. I enjoyed working with [the players]."