Don’t feed the animals

I don’t know a whole lot, but I know a lot of people who know something.

So when I received this question from Keepin’ Up With Karen follower Bernadette, who says she’s from a very rural part of Georgia, I knew exactly who to send it to — Robert Abernethy in the NWTF’s conservation department.

He’s like the Ask Jeeves of wildlife.

Here’s what transpired…


Last spring I started throwing cracked corn behind my house. I had seen deer and wild turkeys a few times. I would toss some corn out every few days and was delighted to see the flock grow from four to 13.

Now the turkeys are coming to eat corn in the mornings and early evenings. So I’m tossing corn two times a day.

Bernadette's turkeys are about to go on a diet...

If they see me with the corn, they come running, and will come within 6 feet of me. They have become like yard chickens. They will not come if anyone else is outside, just me.

But, I’m concerned I may be hurting them in some way. I don’t want to create a dependence on the corn. I want them to still forage for their food. Perhaps they do that now when they’re off doing their thing during the day.

I am fascinated by the turkeys and their behavior, but I don’t want to do something that might hurt them. Any advice?




In general, it is never a good idea to feed wildlife. It unnaturally concentrates animals and can lead to disease transmission. Plus, it provides a small, localized site where predators will soon learn to hunt.

It also can become an attractant and food source for predators and cause an increase in predators such as raccoons. Raccoons are a significant nest predator on the wild turkey and increased ‘coon populations can lead to fewer turkeys. You may not have seen the coons, but they will find the corn left behind by the turkeys and get fatter every night.

As you have already discovered, feed can also tame the wild turkey. It has led to turkeys losing their fear of humans in the Northeast and California. When you combine this with aggressive gobblers in March and April, you can have turkeys that will jump on you, spur you and flail you with their wings. While not as dangerous as a semi-tame deer, bear or coyote, they will scare people and can become a nuisance.

We all love watching wildlife and feed brings them close, but a much better solution is establishing a food plot that provides food year round and spreads out over the landscape. Chufa is a great attractant, as well as brown-top millet and clover.

I hope this helps and have fun watching your turkeys.

I had a similar experience in my own backyard. A fluffy cat started lurking among our trees a few weeks ago. I had to fight the urge to run to the pet store and buy it cute little bowls and a food mat. I thought to myself, It’d be nice to have a mouse catcher around the house.

Then the voice of reason (in the baritone of my husband) sounded in my head: It won’t want to catch mice if it knows it’s going to get a belly full of Meow Mix every day.

Touché, CJ.

So, Bernadette, we both learned something from ol’ Robert and (sigh) my husband. It’s better to allow animals to help themselves instead of dishing handouts. Keep your feeding hands in your pockets but your elbows well greased.

However, I don’t think I’ll be planting a catnip plot anytime soon. You’re on your own, cat.

Lights. Camera. We so crazy.

When someone walks in my office, plops down in one of the chairs and stares at me with a grin, I know he or she is looking for a favor.

That’s exactly what Josh Fleming, the NWTF’s public relations manager, did a couple weeks ago. And the odds were high I was going to do whatever he asked, because:

A) I’m an extremely helpful individual.

B) I’m a pushover who chokes on the word “no.”

C) I’ll do just about anything, except for endangering my child, eating live bugs or swimming in an underground lake. (That’s some scary stuff.)

Josh was “casting” a couple commercials to promote the upcoming NWTF National Convention and Sport Show in the Nashville area. The ad would run Jan. 23 through Feb. 12 on several major networks, like CMT, ESPN and Fox News. He promised fame, fortune and the chance to wear camo to work. (One out of three ain’t bad.)

That’s part of the fun of working at the NWTF. You have no idea what’s going to be thrown your way on any given day. And these commercials were no different. I’m not a professionally trained actress, which will be painfully evident if you click on the second video link, the one with the people in the break room. But we had a good time, and it was a nice diversion from office work.

If you don’t live near Music City and won’t be at our convention (tisk, tisk,) check out these stellar performances on YouTube.

Then consider writing to the Screen Actor’s Guild about the untapped talent in single-species conservation groups.

So you’re in the know, the guys in the first video are Chris Piltz, NWTF special events coordinator, and NWTF TV producer Joe Mole. Chris wants everyone to know he’s actually a good turkey caller. And Joe wants everyone to know he didn’t share spit with Chris. (It was a camera trick.)

In the second video, you have NWTF graphic artist Ryan Kirby, Turkey Country Senior Editor P.J. Perea and little ol’ me. The aforementioned Josh Fleming plays the working stiff. This commercial won’t actually be on network TV for reasons unknown, but I’m not bitter…

SHOT Show – Day 3

Had a great dinner with Sky Horse Publishing last night. Jay Cassels and Katherine Menone hope to guide me through the steps of creating an NWTF cookbook. I’m going to keep begging y’all for wild game (all types) recipes and favorite hunt camp dishes from breakfast to dessert. I want you people to make my mouth water. If I don’t gain at least 5 pounds during this project, you haven’t done your job.

6:00 a.m. — The sweet sound of CJ’s alarm set me in motion (his phone, not his snoring). I went to bed full as a tick last night but woke up hungry. Guess I have food on the brain.

8:00 a.m. — Good thing the first item on my list was heading to the Mississippi Tourism’s annual Downhome Breakfast. Nothing says “good morning” like a plate of bacon and biscuits and gravy. It went great with the sweet tea I grabbed on the way.

10:00 a.m. — L.L. Bean had a product showcase, and I got to see all the beautiful items they’ve developed to celebrate its 100th anniversary — knives, duck decoys, a canoe. They also have a wingshooter’s field kit. It’s a sturdy pair of shears and a knife, complete with leather sheaths. Get this and you’ll be guttin’ in style.

Noon — Had an entirely too rushed lunch with the crew from the “Benelli On Assignment” turkey hunt I went on last spring. About half of the gals, show host Joe Coogan and Jason Nash from Federal grabbed sushi. I sucked down half a bowl of miso soup before I had to dash to the next thing. So good to have some of the crew back together. We missed the ones who couldn’t make it. Our girl Julie Golob, rocking awesome competitive shooter, was off signing copies of her new book called Shoot!

1:00 p.m. — Here’s a little show secret for ya. Sometimes you make decoy (not the quack, quack kind) appointments with friends in the industry, just to have a chance to sit down and chill. Not naming any names or saying I would EVER do that…

2:30 p.m. — My No. 1 SHOT Show pet peeve: A company (or media rep) that calls me before the show, sets up an appointment, then doesn’t have “time” to meet with me when I arrive. Such a time suck. I don’t believe for a minute they do it to be malicious. It’s just rude.

3:30 p.m. — Got the scoop on the Magellan eXplorist series of handheld GPS units. I really liked the 510 model, because it has a camera, microphone and speaker to geotag, record voice notes and videos to relive your outdoor adventures. Then you can upload them and share online. I can totally see this serving as a scouting tool as well. If you agree, count on plopping down about $300.

4:00 p.m. — Chatted with Aaron at Source Media Group. They have something like 12 clients in the outdoor/hunting industry. We just touched base to see how we can continue to work together in the future. This is the stuff gear guides are made of.

5:00 p.m. — Melanie Swearingen (NWTF web chica), Katie McKalip of Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and I got together for a little girl chat. I hadn’t seen Katie in nearly eight years. And I’m about helping women in the industry make quality connections with each other, so I asked Melanie to join us. On our way to find a place to sit, we ran into my husband and some of his clients and co-workers and decided to join up for appetizers. Networking can be so fun.

Stick a fork in me, people. I’m done. Heading home tomorrow morning. Ready to see the kid and get back on track with the magazine and convention.

I’m gonna give y’all a break from me for a few days. Let’s catch back up next week sometime. Thanks for hanging.

SHOT Show – Day 2

Thank goodness my husband set his alarm, because I sure forgot. Hubby works in the hunting industry too, so we get to be roomies. Good thing, ‘cause that’s about the only time I see him at this show.

He was out the door when I was still putting on eyeliner while simultaneously checking my e-mail. Risky business…

7:00 a.m. — Got word from back at NWTF headquarters that the spring hunting forecast was ready for me to edit, so I packed up my stuff and headed to the show floor to read.

8:00 a.m. — Like I said yesterday, if you stay in one place long enough, folks will find you. This morning, between edits and pausing to chat with people dropping by the booth, I had a wonderful visit with former NWTF national board members Gene Goodwin and Tom Behrens. We reminisced about past co-workers, and I gleaned a lot of insight about where the NWTF is heading from these Golden Spurs who’ve stuck around to help keep us on track. (Look at me! I just made a turkey pun!)

Then Turkey Country’s Shooting Savvy columnist J. Wayne Fears dropped in to make sure his content was still on target. (Pun!) I just love that guy. I know he’s a gun guru, but I think of him more like an industry uncle. He’s one of my mentors.

11:00 a.m. — Awesome surprise! Brenda Potterfield of MidwayUSA stopped by the booth to say hi. Have to say I was quite honored. We’re Facebook friends, and I think she might read my blog from time to time. She’s so nice (and Mr. Larry seems the same way). And you know they have more than a generous bone. Heck, I think their entire skeletal system is built from generosity. Prime example: JAKES Take Aim. Not possible without them. (Learn more about it at So when you see them at the NWTF National Convention in a couple weeks, tell them thanks for helping secure the future of our hunting heritage.

11:30 a.m. — Pirated WiFi from the media room again and saw “my other daddy” (pronounced dead-ee), outdoor freelance writer John Phillips. I started in the hunting industry as his intern more than 12 years ago. He brought me to my first SHOT Show way back when and told me to wear high heels. I’ll never forgive him for that little nugget of wisdom. But I’ll also never forget all he taught me.

Noon — Had the best pizza at the Hunter’s Specialties new product luncheon. Enjoyed finally meeting Outdoor Life Editor Andrew McKean in person and just hoped his mad magazine skills would hop over on me. Nice guy. But I was there to see what’s new in the H.S. Strut line-up. Grand National champion caller and H.S. pro-staffer Matt Morrett ran through a few of their new get-that-gobbler-to-your-gun calls.

I’m the kind of gal who likes small, cute things — purses, kittens, turkey calls. Hunter’s Specialties is introducing a slew of “small but deadly” calls this year. Go to and look for the Derringer Slate and Derringer Glass friction calls and the Li’l Strut box call.

They say you should change your shoes at least once during the day to keep your feet from aching. I slid my tootsies in a pair of cushy Muck Boots. Better yet, why not cruise around the SHOT Show on a Yamaha ATV?

3:30 p.m. — Got the low-down on Muck Boots. Of course, I’d heard of the brand but never owned a pair. Learned about the women’s waterfowl boot (brown, waterproof, cozy) and the new ATV riding boot. It’s the first rubber-neoprene boot for gettin’ your mud on a 4×4. Go ahead and Google it. An outdoors enthusiast can never have too many boots.

5:30 p.m. — End of show. On my way to meet with Sky Horse Publishing about the cookbook I’ve mentioned a time or two. Seems like it’s gonna happen, people, so get your wild game recipes to me ASAP.

Vegas love to you all. I’m signing out.

SHOT Show – Day 1

Ready. Aim. SHOT Show has started. Like a bullet out of a barrel, you can’t take it back. I’m in it to win it, folks.

Arrived in Vegas late yesterday afternoon, got settled, finished some office work, then headed off to the Hard Rock to have sushi with the marketing team from Yamaha. Those guys are a ton of fun, and I met other media folks and caught up with a few I haven’t seen in a while. People who do magazines, web content and video for organizations like Ducks Unlimited and the NRA. It’s always good to commiserate with your counterpart.

Then I called it an evening to catch a few Zs and fool my body into being A-OK with the Pacific Time Zone. It wasn’t buying what I was selling.

So my 6:45 a.m. alarm came a bit too early. Did my thang to get ready. SHOT Show 2012 … meet Karen.

8:00 a.m. — Arrived at the NWTF booth a half hour before the show started, just to get my bearings. The booth looks great — like if a log cabin and billboard fell in love. It captures the NWTF hometown vibe but sells what we’re cooking, like advertising and licensing opportunities, ways for companies to get involved with the greatest group of conservation volunteers EVER!

The NWTF banner hangs high on the SHOT Show floor. Good thing, since it's like a beacon for this lost chick.

Awesome location, too. Smack between a concession stand and bathroom (good for traffic, good for Karen). Other neighbors include Mossy Oak, Ameristep and Under Armour.

9:00 a.m. — If you sit still long enough, people start finding you, which can be good or bad. This morning, it was great. Got to visit with gobbler-man Preston Pittman, as well as Brian Lovett, the editor of Turkey & Turkey Hunting (and we didn’t get into a West Side story-like knife fight).

10:00 a.m. — Short and sweet product run-down with Tom Cox of Motorola. He showed me the updates on the MS350R/MS355R two-way radios. It has the stuff a hunter needs in the field — 35-mile range, a VibraCall feature that won’t spook game, a built-in flashlight, NOAA weather alerts. But the new, cool feature is that this waterproof radio floats. A radio doesn’t do you a bit of good if it’s on the bottom of a river, even if it’s waterproof. (Cause this girl ain’t goin’ in after it. Eeek!) But this dude bobs right to the top, face side up, ready to fish out with the toe of your boot. It’s available in camo or school bus yellow. Go for the yellow if you have a habit of dropping stuff in water.

11:00 a.m. — Stopped by the pressroom to leech off the free WiFi and peruse the sea of familiar faces, folks like Turkey Country contributor Steve Felgenhauer.

Noon — Lunch in the Sportsman’s Lounge. Listened to the 2012 digital line-up plans for Outdoor Life and Field & Stream. A little espionage goes great with soup and salad. But it’s not really spying if you were invited, right? Learned that more than 85 percent of hunters and shooters get their sporting info from magazines. And about 25 percent dig into blogs and social media. Yeah for job security!

3:00 p.m. — Found out that Jana Waller is just as awesome as I thought. Watched clips from her show, “Skull Bound,” and am convinced she’s the real deal. I can relate to a gal who will get dirty and try something at least once. She’s full of life and creativity. Have plans for featuring her in the magazine. She’s Turkey Country bound! Hop on over to my Facebook page and see the beaded skulls she donated to the NWTF. They’ll be auctioned at our national convention in a couple weeks. Thanks, Jana!

4:00 — Went to a reception at the Benelli/Franchi booth. Didn’t win the drawing for a shotgun. (Boo.) But saw some of the peeps I hunted with last spring on the “Benelli On Assignment” hunt in Texas. (I wrote about it in the January-February issue. I’m sure you remember…)

5:00 p.m. — Met up with a few of the girls I went to Africa with this fall. A brief time to catch up and grab a few laughs.

All right, I’m off the clock. Well, not really, but let’s just catch back up tomorrow…

Night night.

The NWTF convention of my dreams

Most every NWTF employee has a National Convention alter ego. What I mean is what we do in Nashville for that week in February (and the weeks leading up to it) is different than our daily jobs.

Take me, for example. Everyday job: Turkey Country editor. Convention job: Live show production.

I serve as the liaison between the NWTF and the professional company we hire to produce the live stage shows. I’m tasked with gathering all the elements for the programs in the Delta Ballroom — scripts for the presenters, images and information slides that pop up on the screens, videos, stuff like that.

My favorite part is picking the music that plays while everyone is milling about or eating dinner. I’m a suppressed DJ, so this is about as close as I’m going to get to spinning rad tunes for a large group of people.

Once I get to the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, I rarely leave the cavernous backstage, with its painted black floors and walls, thousands of buttons, miles of cord and a dozen or so screens that go along with the production of our events each morning and evening. I wear a trail in the ornate hotel carpet between my room and Delta Ballroom, only deviating to grab a slice of pizza or Diet Coke.

Very few national conventions come with their own cave, unless you’re a bat or vampire … or work backstage. This year, the turkey folks get one, thanks to the BLM. Don’t miss out on the fun — above or below ground. Register for the NWTF National Convention and Sport Show at

But being backstage is kinda fun. A lot of action takes place once the shows are in full swing. You watch the bands up close, see the sweat beading up on the presenters’ foreheads, listen in on the stream of talking from the production staff as they cue lights, video, cameras.

My only regret is that I rarely see the rest of the convention, since I’m holed up Boo Radley-style for most of the week.

Every year, I have the best intentions of dropping in on a calling contest, auction or a seminar, but it never seems to work out. I finally made it to the exhibit hall on Sunday afternoon last year, only to grab a t-shirt from Turkey Shoppe, then I was on the road back to Edgefield.

I often daydream as to what I’d do if I ever attended convention as a participant getting my turkey on with other volunteers from across the country.

Here’s what I’d do this year …

I’d rock the Roost. I’m a big kid, so I gravitate to anything hands-on. For those who don’t know, the Roost is an area of the exhibit hall that’s geared toward kids and families, with a ton of activities for the youngster in all of us. This year, the Bureau of Land Management is bringing its indoor cave all the way from New Mexico. I hear it’s massive, like 43-feet-long, 12-feet-high and with three chambers complete with dripping water and cool breezes. You can explore underground wildlife and rock formations without the creepy feeling the earth is going to close in on you. I’m down with that.

I’d be a marathon seminar goer. I’d run the gauntlet of women’s classes on Friday — make a survival bracelet, do a few feather crafts, learn a little more about outdoor photography. Then I’d hang with the hunting experts on Saturday and harvest a few tricks and tips from Michael Waddell, Eddie Salter and Brenda Valentine.

I’d catch the fun vibe at the Ladies’ Luncheon and Auction. If I had a dime to my name, I’d bid on stuff, but what really draws me in is the girls-just-wanna-have-fun atmosphere. I saw pictures of the regional directors from last year’s hoorah, many of them dressed as has-been rockstars and washed-up hippies. Who knows what they’ll do with the theme: Pioneer Women — Trailblazers of Conservation? Any bets on who’ll wear a bonnet?

I wouldn’t miss the Winchester Veteran’s Breakfast. Even backstage last year I teared up at the moving series of speakers, videos and parade of vets recognized for their service. And I even KNEW what was coming next! I’d probably be a blubbering mess if I watched from the audience. No napkin or tablecloth would be safe from the waterworks.

I’d mosey through the exhibit hall. I would take my time and see what’s new, cool and waiting to grace my turkey vest. I’d catch up with friends in the industry and snag a bag of those cinnamon pecans that just smell so darn good.

I’d have a pedicure at Relache Spa at the Gaylord, because my feet would be exhausted from taking it all in. A girl can dream, you know…


Jump on the train or watch the train wreck…you’re invited

Sorry I didn’t post last week. Did ya miss me?

Time just got away from me. It seems as if all the parts of my job right now keep stacking up on this imaginary shelf above my head, and it all came crashing down on me at the first of the year — the March-April edition of Turkey Country (the biggest issue of the year), filling my dance card for SHOT Show (the biggest industry trade show of the year) and preparing for the NWTF National Convention (our biggest event of the year).

None of it’s a surprise. Each one happens annually. Just the immediacy of it all at the turn of a new year seems to catch me off guard every time.

As I sit at my desk, staring at various piles of paper, listening to my inbox ding with new items for my multiple to-do lists, I console myself that it will all be over with before I know it. Then I freak out again, because, well, that means it will all be over with before I know it. I just hope I’ll be ready.

It’s that same feeling you get at the beginning of a school year when a teacher hands you a syllabus. You read the long, detailed list in front of you and wonder how you’ll ever get all of it done (and still, like, have time for a life). But the reality is you will, taking it one task, one day at a time.

The next few weeks are gonna be crazy, but I promise not to forget you. I hope you won’t forget to keep up with me, because it’s going to be action packed, including trips to Las Vegas for SHOT, Nashville for NWTF Convention, new outdoor product reveals, giveaways, a possible meltdown by me. You don’t want to miss it.

Get the full experience by following me on Twitter (@Karen_Lee_NWTF) or friending me on Facebook. Search for Karen Lee and look for the same picture that’s smiling at you at the top of this page.

You can even ask the Internet spirits to magically let you know I’ve made a post by subscribing to this blog. It’s super easy. Just move your head a quarter-inch to the right. OK, now up a smidge. Type your email address into the little box and hit the subscribe button. You’ll get a message in you inbox to verify you want to take this earth-shattering step, but you’ll just coolly say, “It’s OK. I’m ready.”

And if you’re a real rock star, you’ll do all three.

Alright, people, we’re in this together. Buckle your chinstraps. ‘Cause here we go!