I have been turkey hunting four times. So far, I have shot no turkeys.
I was with some really accomplished turkey hunters who can call in a turkey from a great distance, but there was always some sort of barrier -- a fence in the wrong place or the gun on the wrong side of the tree.
Even though I am no longer trying to kill a turkey I am still a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
I met with several of the locals in charge of the chapter in Nobles County the other day to see what they were up to. The local chapter is run by dedicated people, including Al Thiner, Clyde Scheevel, Todd Sampson, Mike and Angelic Rodenberg, Clarence Mess and new volunteers Chris Anderson and Matt Nelson. They brought along their regional director, Kevin Fuerstneau.
They have an annual banquet that is coming up soon at the Elks Lodge in Worthington. That will take place on Sept. 21 and starts at 5 p.m. with a social hour. More than one hundred people attend, and of those more than 30 of them are sponsors. There are over 280,000 members of the NWTF and 10,000 of that total live in Minnesota.
I was most interested in what happened to the funds raised at the local banquet and how many of those dollars went to habitat type projects.
I am a habitat guy, and what I learned was very satisfying. The funds all initially go to the national office where 15 percent of the Minnesota-raised funds go into a dedicated Minnesota superfund specifically dedicated to Minnesota projects. This does not mean that these are the only dollars spent in Minnesota.
Any chapter can make a special request to the national office for extra dollars to benefit specific projects, and the national dollars are then delivered to the chapters with the best possible habitat or other projects. These can include the use of the organization’s own on-staff forest biologist to increase or improve turkey habitat. They can include forest restoration or enhancement projects.
The projects can be on public or private lands. Where they can get the best bang for their conservation dollar is where the funds will be used.
The NWTF is largely responsible for supplying dollars in the earliest days to help finance the reintroduction of the wild turkey to many parts of the nation where they were either hunted to extinction, or to areas where the habitats could no longer support them.
The chapter also works with youth mentoring and mentor hunts. These can be in partnership with other conservation organizations or stand-alone hunts done only by NWTF members. High school trap teams have also benefited all over the nation from dollars received from NWTF chapters.
High school trap is the fastest growing sport in the nation, and Minnesota is leading the charge. Starting new programs takes money and the hunter or conservation sportsman has for decades been the funder of many, if not most, of these great causes.
I don’t hunt turkeys, but I love habitat. This organization does many of the things I think are very important. If you have been to their banquet before, be sure to buy your tickets soon. If you have never attended, now it the time to check them out and by all means consider becoming a sponsor to add dollars to the conservation efforts of the NWTF.
You can get a ticket to the banquet by stopping in my office at LPL Financial located at 1321 Smith Avenue in Worthington, at Culligan and Pawn It in Worthington, or by running into any of the board members listed earlier in this column. If you have questions or want a ticket you can also call Al Thiner at 612-361-1461.
I am at a wedding that night, so I cannot attend, but you can be sure I am buying a ticket anyway.
Just because you might be conflicted by other responsibilities on Sept. 21 that is no reason to opt out. If you win a prize in your absence, they will make sure you get it.
The NWTF makes a difference. Be one of those folks who make a difference, too.