Hello. WOW! Braver man than me. I had a pork belly out for smoking today after work but with this weather I gave it a miss.
Well I have a couple things to throw out there. All are just my opinions.
1st: That yard bird looks really good. For a first try although you had to fight it all the way, I hope the final product gave you the "bug" to stick with it. With a little tweaking time we will make the process easier.
2nd: In my opinion, unless you are cooking poultry for presentation ( like Christmas meal ) I spatchcock the bird as in jockaneezer's post. Makes for more even cooking. When learning about YOUR smoker ( each one can have different quirks ) thinner meats are easier to do as you struggle with temp control. TEMP CONTROL IS THE KEY as you found out.
3rd: Water pan. 100 years ago I played with a bullet smoker for a time. I had ZERO luck with it! I was new to that type smoker and had no guidance at all. Just let tha darn thing rust down. Many folks here use a bullet type with great success. I will say this, in every other smoker I have used I have never used a pan of water in it. I do know many folks put sand in their water pan to act as a heat sink to help hold a more steady temp in the smoker. I can't really speak to that as I have never tried it.
4th: We need picts of your smoker. And picts of it used in anger is even better. Have you sealed all leaks on the smoker? Are you getting enough air UNDER your coals? Is the ash choking the air flow under your coals? If you are throwing your coals in the bottom of a pan in your smoker then there is your biggest problem, no air flow and ash choking your fire. Air MUST flow from under your coals and be pulled out the top of your smoker. How hot your smoker gets is then regulated by that air flow.
Just hang with us and feed us some info and we will help sort this out. Don't throw out the smoker! All can be saved. It will get easier and smoking meat will become an enjoyable pastime. Keep Smokin!