Achoo and bless you

I’m writing this from the waiting room of my local medical clinic. It’s time for my weekly allergy shots. Notice I said shots with two S’s. I get four of ‘em every visit.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, more than half (54.6 percent, to be exact) of all U.S. citizens test positive to one or more allergens. I, however, am a freak of nature and am notably allergic to more than a dozen things, hence the need for four needles piercing my epidermis every five or so days.

I get choked up on everything from grasses and trees to cats and cockroaches (gross, I know). Basically, all of God’s creation has the potential to make me sneeze, wheeze and produce buckets of mucus at the drop of an acorn.

I'm bringing sexy back with Kleenex.

I’ve had problems with allergies as long as I can remember. I recall getting scolded by my mom for leaving wadded up tissues in my pockets as early as elementary school.

My first stint with allergy shots started during college, since the older-than-the-Parthenon freshman dorm I lived in was apparently built with bricks plastered together with mold and mildew. Yeah, I’m allergic to those too.

When I moved to South Carolina to work for the NWTF, my allergies seemed to magically disappear. I popped a Claritin or Zyrtec from time to time, but it was nothing compared to the way the Alabama elements wrecked my sinus cavities.

Then I had a tangle with a swarm of fire ants while turkey hunting in 2003. Nearly 40 of those blasted critters had words with my torso, neck and face, and I was left with a rapidly closing windpipe and swollen Mick Jagger lips. Thankfully, I had a couple Benadryl in my vest and fell asleep with my forehead pressed against one the truck’s AC vents.

I swept the incident under the rug, along with the dust mites (yeah, I’m allergic to those too), vowing to have a couple little pink tablets on me at all times.

Fast forward to 2010. My husband, toddler son and I were cruising through a dried up food plot on a hunting lease. We were chugging along on a UTV when wheat and rye grass particles started flying. Motherly instinct kicked in, as I shielded little Cooper’s face from the flurry of flakes of supplemental food.

I, however, caught an eyeful, and within 10 minutes one side of my face became red, puffy and beyond itchy. I looked like a Picasso or Sloth from The Goonies. Not cute. This time the effects didn’t go away for several days.

That’s why I am back on the shots. And now instead of just Benadryl, I tote an Epipen everywhere I go. I don’t want nature to get in the way of me enjoying nature, if you know what I mean.

Just so you know, the irony of me being an outdoors magazine editor who’s allergic to the outdoors is not lost. Thankfully, I’ve been spared from reactions to ink, paper and Apple computers, so I’ve remained gainfully employed.

But it’s the chance to be outside — to hunt all over the country, attend NWTF outreach events, simply enjoy a spring day … the experiences that I share with you through this blog and Turkey Country — that makes my job awesome. I can’t imagine surrendering to the elements. My life wouldn’t be same without a hefty dose of outdoor time.

That’s why I don’t really mind hanging out in this waiting room. Every shot I get is a chance to stick it to those allergies and keep doing what I enjoy.

Merry Christmas…

From my family to yours, we hope you have a blessed day filled with fun, togetherness and lots of laughter.

A family photo in front of the chrismon tree at our church's annual Christmas Eve service. Cooper looks a bit distracted...visions of sugar plums perhaps?

Wandering the Halls: Ryan McDuffie, development department administrative assistant

‘Tis the season for giving. That’s what Ryan McDuffie hopes for, at least. She works in the development department at the NWTF, which oversees planned gifts, large donations and other stuff that keeps the NWTF’s wheels moving forward.

But there are a lot of other things Ryan likes about the Christmas season — hot cocoa, lights, the smell of pine. And she has a thing for fat men wearing red. (What woman doesn’t?)

Ryan has an extra reason to celebrate this year. She and her husband, Sam, who also works for the NWTF, brought a little McDuffie into the world this fall. First Christmases as a new family are so precious. Lemme hear a collective awww…

Watch out mall Santas across the country! Ryan McDuffie is looking for you (and your wallet).

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ryan McDuffie:

OFFICIAL TITLE: development department administrative assistant

JOB DESCRIPTION: I manage the Combined Federal Campaign and the NWTF Legacy program. I handle incoming department inquiries and try to direct people to the right place.


WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU CAME TO WORK FOR THE NWTF? I worked with Child Protective Services as an investigator.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB? Helping raise money for the NWTF.

WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE PART? The amount of time I sit in my desk chair. I would really prefer to be outside more or moving around more at least.

FINISH THIS SENTENCE: I USUALLY SPEND MY LUNCH BREAK…with the NWTF’s museum coordinator, because he’s pretty good looking and has an adorable little boy.

IF YOU WERE A PLANT, WHAT WOULD YOU BE? A pansy, because they’re pretty, hardy and common. And that’s good enough for me.

IF YOU COULD HAVE FRONT ROW TICKETS TO ANY MUSICAL ARTIST/BAND EVER, WHO WOULD IT BE? Ryan Adams, NOT to be confused with Bryan Adams. (What, Ryan?!? You mean you’re not into sappy ballads and songs about the summer of ’69?) I love all his songs and he is a great songwriter, lyrically.

7 reasons why I’m psyched about the upcoming Turkey Country issue

The next issue of Turkey Country should be in your mailbox soon, no doubt bundled with a tree’s worth of Christmas cards and catalogs from companies trying to squeeze just one more dime out of last-minute shoppers.

Here are a few of the gotta-see and must-read pages of the January-February 2012 issue, according to me at least.

1. THE COVER — The frosted tips of the turkey’s body feathers and beard will send shivers up your spine, but don’t overlook his wings worn flat from dragging and strutting. If that doesn’t get you warmed up for spring, then you must not have a bone to pick with a boss tom somewhere. Thanks, Guy Tillett, for snapping this shot — and for making me pine for turkey season even more.

What media outlet includes hand cuffs, video cameras and a lot of grass? The latest issue of Turkey Country, of course! And YOU thought I was talking about an episode of "Cops"...

2. PAGE 15 — The often-overlooked cyber sister to Turkey Country ( is full of exclusive features, quick access to many of the links in the magazine and an easy entrance for members to participate in Answer the Call, Snapshots and Ask Dr. Tom. We hope to pique your curiosity with this new page of teasers. This installment of the online version has stories on using turkey feathers in traditional archery to a roundup of outdoors-related apps for a smart phone, and a little coyote hunting and outdoor humor in between.

3. PAGE 21 — I simply love this photo by Senior Editor PJ Perea. It’s incredibly eye-catching and demonstrates there’s so much beauty in the smallest details of nature.

4. NWTF TRACK STARS — We feature Kevin Howard of Howard Communications, who was 2011’s NWTF Communicator of the Year.  I’ve worked with Kevin and his team and found all the nice stuff said about them in the article to be true. What I didn’t know, however, is that Kevin starts every workday with group prayer. That’s a leader who has his priorities in order.

5. 25 WAYS TO CURE CABIN FEVER — There’s a ton of fun stuff to do outside in winter, but it’s cool (check out the pun) to see so many of them gathered in a list. Makes me wish I could teleport myself to a snowy part of the country for a day of fun, then come home to sunny South Carolina and not have to worry about putting chains on my tires.

6. TURKEY CALLS — J.J. Reich tells us about a couple companies that make turkey calls out of submerged hardwoods like cypress. There’s only so much of this old, waterlogged wood around, and apparently it makes one heckuva turkey call. I just think they’re neat because it’s pieces of natural history, recycled.

7. POACHER-PROOF YOUR PROPERTY — When a poacher’s creeping in from your neighbor’s hood … who ya gonna call? Game wardens! (Bravo, if you just sang that to the tune of Ghostbusters.) In all seriousness, I really enjoyed this interview with Game Warden Roger Tate of Arkansas. He was honored at our national convention last year for putting the smack down on ne’er-do-wells who won’t play by the same rules as the rest of us. (He’s also apparently a nice guy who has a heart for outreach.) Tate gives landowners and hunt lease holders tips for keeping these bad apples from hugging your property line and what to do if you catch one in the act.

Hope you find a couple of silent nights to enjoy these pages and the rest of the magazine over the holidays.

Happy trail (mix) to you this holiday season

I’m about to get all Betty Crocker on you, maybe just a little Martha Stewart.

Here’s an idea for a cheap and easy Christmas gift for any outdoorsy type — holiday trail mix.

I realize trail mix isn’t a new concept, and perhaps a Christmas-themed version isn’t either, but I felt pretty crafty coming up with this sweet and salty mixture.

Hope this Christmas gift/snack idea helps you in a pinch or adds a little yumminess to your holiday season.

Throw together salted peanuts, shelled sunflower seeds, cashews, green and red mini M&Ms, dried cranberries and white chocolate chips in whatever combination suits your taste buds.

I scooped it into clear cellophane bags and finished it with some festive ribbon to give to some of my coworkers this year. I haven’t passed them out yet, but plan to next week.

Then I’ll know who doesn’t follow my blog (naughty) and who does (nice) as to whether they’re surprised by the gift.


Wandering the Halls: Jamie Hutchinson, associate TV producer

OK, this dude just cracks me up. I got to know Jamie at last year’s national convention when I shared a suite at the Opryland hotel with the TV production crew.

That’s sounds kind of bad, so let’s take a minute to dodge any scandals: It was a last-minute room change. My husband was there. I could lock the door to my part of the suite. There. Are you satisfied?

The point is when you work in close quarters with someone and depend on them to get your job done at an event as big as our convention, you become fast friends.

Jamie is like a ninja when it comes to humor. He delivers these one-liners in such a deadpan tone it leaves you wondering what just transpired. Then a couple seconds later, you realize what he said and begin laughing hysterically.

Just like when he answered the following questions, he said: “I’m opening the window to my soul here, so be gentle.” Priceless…

If TV production ever doesn’t work out for Jamie Hutchinson, I want to hire him to sit in my office and make me laugh every 10 minutes.

OFFICIAL TITLE: associate TV producer

JOB DESCRIPTION: I edit TV shows, video hunts, interview people on camera and do a bit more editing.


WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU CAME TO WORK FOR THE NWTF? I produced television and Web commercials for businesses nice enough to pay me to do so.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB? I like meeting new people and working outdoors.

WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE PART? Though I realize it’s a necessary evil, I really don’t like getting on and off airplanes. But if that’s my only problem, I’m doing pretty good, right?

FINISH THIS SENTENCE: I USUALLY SPEND MY LUNCH BREAK…eating. Should I be doing something else?

IF YOU WERE A WILD ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD YOU BE? I’d be a duck. Any animal that gets to hang out near water and also has the ability to walk, fly or swim is ideal. Plus, if you can find a neighborhood pond, then people will feed you. You just have to quack and look pretty. (Note: I can do both.)

Must-see Karen Lee TV

Here’s a little something for those of you who’ve been keeping up with me the past few weeks, wondering if I ever turkey hunt or just yammer about my family, feelings and Christmas trees.

I offer you proof that I can sling a 3½-inch shotshell at a living, breathing bird. Catch me on Outdoor Channel this week. It’s playing reruns of the episode of “Benelli On Assignment” where I take down a turkey in Texas with a Super Vinci.

It airs on the 16th at 9 a.m. (which goes nicely with your second cup of coffee for the day) and a pre-lunch showing on the 17th at 11:30 a.m.

The production company did an excellent job in putting the show together, but I have to say I look like I have a big head — literally, not figuratively. My noggin easily looks twice its normal size.

Now if that doesn’t get your TiVo or DVR going, I don’t know what will.

Anyway, I hope you’ll tune in. And then check out the companion piece I wrote on the hunt in the January-February 2012 issue of Turkey Country. It’s cleverly titled “Hunting for a TV Show,” where I give my inside view on what it takes to make a hunting show happen, including the self-inflicted pressure to shoot something and not look stupid.

Wandering the Halls: Todd Price, graphic designer

When I think of Todd Price, Clemson football, sarcasm and the image of him dressed as a prep for my ‘80s-themed roller skating birthday party pop into my head. He’s not a stereotypical artist, dressed in black, listening to Morrissey and stuff. None of the NWTF’s graphic artists are.

But Todd’s a darn good designer, wrapped in the skin of a family guy wearing a polo shirt, always ready to talk smack about sports, politics or whatever you throw his way.

Todd Price — Don’t let the button-down shirt and American dad persona fool you. This guy’s a raging artist who expresses himself through hunting t-shirt designs and magazine layouts featuring dead animals.

Blogosphere, it’s time to get to know Todd.

OFFICIAL TITLE: senior graphic designer

JOB DESCRIPTION: graphic designer and job giver-outer


WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU CAME TO WORK FOR THE NWTF? I was a graphic designer for Expotechnik, a trade show exhibit company in Atlanta.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB? All the projects we get to work on, from logos and fliers to magazine layouts.

WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE PART? Short turn-arounds on projects and edits

FINISH THIS SENTENCE: I USUALLY SPEND MY LUNCH BREAK…eating and reading on the Internet.

IF YOU WERE A WILD ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD YOU BE? A bear. They fish and sleep.

IF YOU WERE A PLANT, WHAT WOULD YOU BE? A fern. They get to hang out on people’s front porches.

IF YOU WERE A NATIONAL HOLIDAY, WHAT WOULD YOU BE? Thanksgiving. You get to eat and sleep.

I’m starting to see a trend here, Todd. Todd? Are you awake? Todd…

Wandering the Halls: Gregg Powers, Turkey Country managing editor

It’s only fitting that my first Wandering the Halls victim is Gregg Powers, managing editor of Turkey Country. That’s where I spend a lot of my time, perched on his filing cabinet and, according to him, telling him what to do.

Gregg and I share a love of music, and he’s THE coworker that would give me a run for my money in a music trivia match. (He’d run laps around me on ‘70s rock and country; I’d school him on ‘80s pop and ‘90s grunge.) He’s a drummer and oftentimes returns home to Tennessee to jam with friends and, of course, visit his sweet and sassy girlfriend. (Love ya, Candy.)

Gregg Powers — Turkey Country managing editor, drummer, music buff and NWTF employee mostly likely to rejoin the KISS Army today

Here’s how he answered my questions…

OFFICIAL TITLE: Turkey Country managing editor

JOB DESCRIPTION: I make sure the magazine gets out, on time…and do what Karen tells me to do.


WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU CAME TO WORK FOR THE NWTF? I was the outdoor writer/editor for the Johnson City Press in Johnson City, Tenn.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB? I have lots of favorites. I like seeing the magazine come together. I enjoy editing the stories and, of course, I like hunting turkeys. I work with a great bunch of creative people.

WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE PART? I don’t have many least favorite parts. I guess preparing for convention, because it falls during a busy time of magazine production. We’re working on the March-April issue then, which is our biggest issue each year.

FINISH THIS SENTENCE: I USUALLY SPEND MY LUNCH BREAK…eating with the gang in the communications department, mostly with Karen and her husband, CJ. I’m usually thinking about what needs to get done back at the office.

IF YOU WERE A CAR/TRUCK PART, WHAT WOULD YOU BE? The tires. They’re very important in getting you where you need to go.

Wandering the halls of Turkey Town


Writer’s block is a real part of my daily life. If you write often, you know what I mean. If you don’t, allow me to explain.

Writer’s block is like constipation of the brain. You’ve got a ton of thoughts swimming around up there, but none of them want to come out, not in a coherent sentence at least.

That was kind of gross comparison, but now everyone is on the same page. Right?

When I suffer from writer’s block, I have to get up from my desk and walk around to get my creative juices flowing. I wander the halls of NWTF headquarters.

I have my usual haunts, stopovers and whatnot, but sometimes I just go rogue and pester people around the office. You get to know folks that way. And, inevitably, I return to my desk with some kind of inspiration and get back on track.

Now that I have a blog, I’ve vowed to make my hallway treks doubly useful. I want to introduce you to the awesome folks who work at the NWTF.

Each Wandering the Halls post will feature a coworker, a little bit about his or her job, where they came from and a quirky fact or two.

I hope you enjoy this new addition to my ramblings, as well as getting to know the people of the NWTF.

Come on, follow me as I wander the halls of Turkey Town…