A time to gather
While winter held the country in its icy grip, members of the NWTF, like the birds we love, flocked up across America. It was a time to gather at state and national conventions to honor our outstanding volunteers and partners. It was a time to renew friendships, share stories from years past and plan for the future.
It was also the season for our corporate partners to show off their new products, and we renewed partnerships and celebrated the outdoor industry. Despite lagging sales in recent years, there is optimism as we look to the future and talk of our efforts to collectively recruit, retain and reactivate new hunters. Our desire to reverse the decline of hunters is strong, and there is recognition that we must work together to be successful.
These past months, as I traveled to numerous state conventions, some regional differences were apparent. Oyster roasts in the south transitioned to winter activities and hearty fare in the north. Despite the minor differences in food and dialect, what we hold in common was much more obvious. These conventions are collections of several generations of friends and families who truly enjoy one another and are driven by a passion for conservation and our hunting heritage that unites all of us behind a common mission. Sure, there are differences in opinions from time to time on how something should be accomplished. The passion that fuels our desire to make a difference in conservation also gives us strong opinions, but that passion also links us to one another and pushes us forward.
I am convinced that there is something in our human DNA that drives us to gather. Friendships formed over a few years or a few decades are precious, and it is wonderful to see volunteers assist one another without being asked. It is such a delight to have members come up, introduce themselves, and tell me about a new event to introduce people into the outdoors or to share their ideas to increase membership at a banquet or to recount a story about a new hunter they mentored. I share their excitement in the retelling of their adventures and welcome their ideas to make us better, stronger and more effective. Their enthusiasm is contagious and fuels us on long days of travel and the work ahead. A friend of mine describes it this way: “We come for the mission, but we stay because of the friendships.”
Now, as the days are getting longer and the first soft winds of spring begin to blow, our winter flocks are breaking up and returning to their home ranges. We prepare for the spring hunting season. We make plans to introduce new folks to our heritage through mentored hunts. It is also the time for our banquet season, when we share our passion with local communities, welcome new members and volunteers and ask others to join us in the continued success of the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of our hunting heritage.
Best wishes to all of you for a safe and successful spring season.
— Becky Humphries, NWTF CEO