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Arkansas hunters and conservationists lost a good friend Feb. 4 with the passing of Thurman Booth, 79.

Booth worked 52 years as a wildlife biologist, as state director for the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services. To that position he brought infinite wisdom and common sense to addressing human-wildlife interface issues. He was a valuable liaison between federal policy makers and the agriculture and aquaculture communities.

My first contact with Booth was in 2005 over a column in which he believed I unfairly criticized Arkansas Game and Fish Commission chairman Mike Freeze. Thereafter he became a mentor, educating me on the inner workings and minutiae of federal wildlife policy. He never wanted to be quoted, but he was always willing to share an insider's perspective.

In 2009, he became a mentor on a much deeper level. I was battling Stage III rectal cancer. Leaving a Game and Fish Commission meeting one evening, Booth accosted me in the parking lot and shared his experience with prostate cancer.

He said, "I've waited to tell you this until you were ready to hear it, and I think you are. I know what you're going through, and if you will let it be, this can be the greatest growth experience of your life."

We talked of family and fear, but mostly about faith. He did not let the rigors and indignities of cancer steal his good humor. He noted that it seemed to be a requirement for urologists to have oversized fingers, and he was so happy when he finally met one that didn't.

There are some inconvenient commonalities in rectal and prostate cancers. The incidents are humiliating at the time, and it was really uplifting to be able to laugh about shared experiences. Only with your closest confidants can such things be conversation starters.

Booth was an avid hunter who loved to share his stories with Arkansas Democrat-Gazette readers. The first was a feature about a giant buck he killed with a shotgun at the Pine Bluff Arsenal. My favorite was his mule deer hunt in Colorado. On that trip, Booth and his companions sustained multiple bedbug bites at a fleabag motel. Booth said that his friends nicknamed him "Bedbug." He was kind of proud of it.

Booth endured deteriorating health with his signature cheerful attitude. He understood that our bodies are temporary vessels, and his eyes were always on the spiritual and the eternal. I am proud to have known him.

Shad pattern

Steve Dally, owner of Dally's Ozark Fly Fisher, said weather in northern Arkansas is cold enough to kill large amounts of threadfin shad in Bull Shoals Lake.

That means trout will gorge on dead shad passing through the hydropower turbines into the Bull Shoals tailwater portion of the White River. Dally advises fly fishermen to get busy tying new shad pattern flies.

Sowbug Roundup

If you want to meet fellow fly fishermen and fly tyers, attend the 23rd annual International Sowbug Roundup on March 26-28 at the Baxter County Fairgrounds in Mountain Home.

Presented by the North Arkansas Fly Fishers, the theme will be Warm Water Fly Fishing. Dave Whitlock and Emily Whitlock, both fly fishing legends, will be guests of honor.

The floor arrangement is designed to facilitate access to more than 150 fly tyers that will provide free demonstrations and tips. Free fly tying classes will also be offered. There will also be raffles and auctions. You can stock up on the latest fly fishing gear from a large selection of vendors. It is strictly a fly fishing show, so there will only fly fishing vendors.

The Sowbug Roundup is the sole fundraising event for the North Arkansas Fly Fishers. The organization funds $10,000 annually in scholarships to students majoring in fisheries management or environmentally related fields.

Event hours will be 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission for the entire event will be $10. Admission will be free for children age 12 and younger. For more information, visit www.sowbugroundup.org.

Sports on 02/16/2020

Print Headline: Outdoors community loses valuable friend in Booth

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