Grass roots groups of like minded folks can accomplish a great deal. The success of the National Wild Turkey Federation is proof positive.
On March 28, 1973, the Commonwealth of Virginia issued incorporation papers to a fledging organization in Fredericksburg called the National Wild Turkey Foundation. The NWTS has come a long, long way since its founding chief executive, Tom Rogers, took $440 out of his own pocket to put this organization into motion.
In the ensuing 4 decades, the NWTF has done much to insure generations that follow will be able to hear the leaf shaking gobble of a boss gobbler during the spring mating season. When the organization formed, there were about 1.5 wild turkeys in North America. Today, more thank 7 million birds roam the hills, hollows and woodlands from Canada to Mexico, thanks to much hard work and dedication from members of the NWTF and state and federal wildlife agencies.
This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend my first NWTF banquet, hosted by the Kaufman County Double Beards Chapter. The event was held in Ables Springs, about 10 miles north of Terrell, at the Volunteer Fire Department Headquarters.
I experienced the success that could be achieved by a dedicated group of volunteers that worked together to make something good happen. Something good in this instance was a sizeable chunk of money raised for the NWTF that will go directly into restocking and habitat improvement efforts for wild turkey.
If you’ve never been to Ables Springs, a bit of advice is not to blink when you’re passing through, you’ll miss it. But the parking lot full of trucks and cars last Saturday evening made the location stand out like a strutting gobble on a sunny spring day.
The rural setting was a perfect headquarters for the chapter’s annual event. At first I wondered why the banquet/fundraiser was not held in a larger town but the chapter had obviously chosen their headquarters wisely, as was evidenced by the number of vehicles already in the parking lot when my buddy and I arrived thirty minutes early.
Once inside the door, we were greeted by club members Chris Womack, Tim Webster, Craig White and James Rickman. The state NWTF president Dick McCarver from Mt. Pleasant came by to shake our hands and make us feel welcome.
A veteran of many of the big city fun raising banquets, I liked the down home atmosphere I was experiencing here. The perimeter of the room was lined with an array of outdoor products to be auctioned. The tantalizing aroma of sizzling fajitas, the main course for the evening meal, filled the room.
After the dinner of some of the best Mexican food I’ve enjoyed in a long time, auctioneer Kent Krank did an expert and entertaining job of presenting the items to be auctioned. Krank’s lively auctioneer’s cadence insured that nobody would fall asleep!
Being a long time rabid hunter of wild turkeys, I was with like company. Our conversations quickly went to topics such as, “Where will you be opening the season next month,” and “What load do you like best for turkey hunting?” I even struck up a conversation with a couple of hard core turkey hunters like myself that went after their birds with a compound bows!
Talk turkey hunting long with veterans of the sport and the discussion will soon turn to some down right funny things that occurred on past hunts. I told about the time two strutting boss gobblers hung up on the banks across the Brazos River from where I was calling. I simply could not coax them across the shallow stretch of river. Caught up in the moment and the adrenaline rush that ten minutes of gobbling creates, I decided to close the distance.
I walked upstream a couple hundred yards, around a bend of the river and began wading across. In my excitement, I didn’t see that pocket of deep water. With bow over my head, I made my way to the opposite bank.
One series of hen yelps on the box call and both gobblers answered. The birds were behind a long stretch of drift wood and refused to fly over the debris. Finding a small opening in the obstruction, I hid in the brush and began calling. One of the toms instantly came strutting into view at a scant 25 yards. I’ll never forget that hunt or the wild turkey fajitas we enjoyed that evening at our little camp on the banks of the Brazos.
My companions at the diner table also had their stories. One told about the time a gobbler landed on his shoulder when it flew down from a perch on a rock directly above his calling location.
Another recapped a hunt up in the Panhandle when he had three strutting gobblers in front of him and he dropped his box call on a rock.
The birds responded to the disturbance by gobbling their heads off! Proof positive that some days you can do no wrong in the turkey woods, others days, even the best of calling won’t result in a gobbler within shotgun range!
For more information on learning about a chapter of NWTF near you, visit www.nwtf.org/texas