|Fred Pringle with one of the many turkeys he helped trap, transfer and release. (Credit: Tes Randle Jolly)|
Can you imagine holding in your hands over 4,000 live wild turkeys?
In his over 43 years working for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Area Manager and Biologist Aide Fred Pringle personally saw and did it all. He very likely held in his hands more live Eastern Wild Turkeys than any other man in history.
Pringle, named Fred by his father after Fred Stimpson, his father’s employer, is one of those people literally born to do what he did. As manager of the Fred T. Stimpson Wildlife Sanctuary and the nearby Upper State Sanctuary, Pringle spent a whole career restoring deer and turkey populations to sustainable levels.
This was the vision that Stimpson and others had when they established the Sanctuary as a source for restocking programs over half a century ago when deer and turkey had been extirpated from most of the state.
What a satisfying career it must have been to play such a pivotal role in bringing back our most popular game species to huntable levels! Stimpson and Pringle would be exceedingly proud.
A Man of Great Humility
Having had the opportunity to get to know Pringle, the word humble comes to mind when I think of him. Despite his key role in historically monumental wildlife restoration programs, Pringle is first and foremost a man of great humility.
His inordinate humility is characteristic of so many in the fish and wildlife profession. Because of their extreme passion for what they do, so many blush at any special recognition, and typically take an, "Aw shucks, there’s nothing special about anything I’ve done" attitude.
Recipient of the NWTF Joe Kurz Award
Pringle received the highly-coveted Joe Kurz Wildlife Manager of the Year Award from the National Wild Turkey Federation in 2003 for his extraordinary efforts in wild turkey work. The Joe Kurz Award is usually reserved for those with a biology degree. However, Pringle has taught a lot of biologists a lot about wild turkey management.
Can you imagine live trapping and holding in your hands over 4,000 wild turkeys? Wild turkeys that were then transported across Alabama and several other states and released, protected and allowed to reproduce in suitable habitats, resulting in the sustainable, huntable populations we enjoy today.
One of the reasons Pringle handled such a large number of turkeys was that Alabama was a leader nationally in establishing a restocking program. Another reason was that we had turkeys when nobody else did. The remnant population in the area around the river swamp in southwest Alabama, where the Sanctuary is located, was the source of turkeys stocked across the state.
A Jack-of-All-Trades and Master of All
Don’t get the idea that all Pringle did was trap and release deer and turkeys. In his spare time, he was a Jack-of-all-trades – heavy equipment operator, tractor driver, law enforcement officer, repairman, farmer, forest manager, prescribed burn technician, CDL truck driver and public speaker. This widely diverse range of responsibilities pretty much typifies what WWF personnel did on wildlife management areas. His responsibilities just encompassed all these things plus trap-transport-and-release.
Pringle saw the time when there were practically no deer or turkeys left in Alabama, an unthinkable thing to most people today.
He saw the perfection of trapping techniques that allowed for cost-effective methods to trap numbers of wild deer and turkeys without undue stress and damage to the animals themselves. And he saw the development of means to safely transport and release deer and turkeys far away from the source.
Pringle saw the results of the hard work he and his co-workers put into re-establishing and protecting populations of deer and turkeys. He saw the difficulty of enforcing game laws designed to protect emerging, growing herds of deer and flocks of turkeys.
Pringle saw the hunters and landowners of Alabama as they came to realize the wisdom of limiting harvest to allow reproducing populations to take hold.
Later he even saw the effects of inadequate harvest, particularly of does, and witnessed the slow, difficult process of educating hunters about the need to take does in order to keep deer populations in balance and within carrying capacity.
Pringle saw the eventual opening of the Sanctuary itself to limited hunting in the form of Youth Deer Hunts. Add to his list of responsibilities that of hunt manager.
He saw the eventual decline of turkey populations being experienced now. I haven’t talked with him about it, but knowing him he’s both sadly disappointed and optimistically hopeful.
As hunters and landholders, we all owe Pringle and those like him an immense level of gratitude for their hard work in bringing about the relative abundance of deer and turkeys we now enjoy.
Fred, my friend, Mist’ Fred and your daddy would be exceedingly proud of you indeed!
Corky Pugh is the executive director of the Hunting Heritage Foundation.