NWTF brings in the GEEKS with new iPhone app

When Jeff Hughes worked at the NWTF as a graphic artist several years ago, I thought of him as more of a goofball than a geek. He’s silly, funny and creative … basically, a big kid. One you’d find in the gifted classes and art studio, not wheeling around TVs for the AV club.

Before you peg me as a snobby head cheerleader picking on social underlings, let me tell you Jeff is cool and he calls himself a geek … and a nerd … and a dork.

He co-founded a technology company, Hunt Geek, with Chief Enginerd Jim Stolis. They specialize in iPhone and Droid apps for other geeks who love to hunt, shoot and fish.

And just out TODAY is the brand spankin’ new NWTF app, the Turkey Hunting Toolbox, ready to install on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. (A Droid version is in the works.)

The Hunt Geeks and NWTF staff put their noggins together to come up with this complete turkey hunting tool that fits in your pocket. (No, I’m not still talking about Jeff!)

The app features audio clips of common turkey calls to help you hone your yelps, cutts and clucks. Then calling champions like Mark Prudhomme, Matt Van Cise and Chris Parrish, tell you how to put your skills to the task through video tips.

You’ll also find hunting advice from NWTF pros, from patterning your shotgun to making a spur necklace — and everything in between. It even allows you to score your bird in the field.

There are ringtones, state regulations, an up-to-date list of NWTF events. Heck, you can even renew your membership with it. What DOESN’T it do?!?

I caught up with the head Hunt Geeks, Jeff and Jim, to chat about the new app, asking them questions that only a person who hasn’t updated her phone software in six months could:

Karen: What goes in to creating an app? Simple, general terms please…
Geeks:
Usually, it starts with an interview with the client. We identify a useful set of features or a message the company is trying to convey, or maybe we look for a gap in existing apps that would be useful to outdoor folks. Then we nail down the features, do visual mock-ups of all the screens you see on your device, then tweak them until the client likes the basic flow/look. After that, we start breaking down the assets and coding each screen to match the mock-ups.

Carry a Hunt Geek in your turkey vest this spring: The new NWTF Turkey Hunting Toolbox app is now available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

Karen: OK, you’re starting to lose me. What does this app have that’s different than others?
Geeks:
It’s a ridiculously useful resource for turkey hunters. The app’s information came directly from the best turkey source around — the NWTF. It’s a definitive resource, including subspecies ID, tips and tricks, audio samples to help you practice calling, video tips and articles from the pros. It’s overloaded with great info, and at $1.99, it’s a steal!

Karen: No doubt, that’s cheaper than downloading two songs from, well, No Doubt! What’s your favorite feature of the app?
Geeks:
The turkey sounds and video tips are perfect for improving your success in the field. And the NWTF gets money from every sale; it’s a win-win for hunters and conservation of the resource.

Karen: What do you want NWTF members to know about the app?
Geeks:
Only a small portion of the app requires an Internet connection to use, like the state agencies’ regulations.

Karen: Not judging, just curious: How do you find balance between the tech world and the natural world?
Geeks:
Our take on technology in the field is that you’re already taking your device with you in the event of an emergency (or to call in sick if the hunting gets good). Why not use it to your advantage? It’s a lot lighter than hauling around reg books, how-to articles and such. When started Hunt Geek by tackling things that nagged us in the field, such as sunrise/sunset tables, stand locations and even rangefinding. We rolled them into killer mobile applications, making an outdoorsperson’s life easier, keeping them legal and getting the most out of their time afield.

Karen: Since the app went live today, I’m sure there are already plans for updates.
Geeks:
Apps like this are always evolving. We want to make sure the user gets the best bang for his or her buck. There are several additional features coming in the next few months that will further enhance the app. And user feedback is very important and oftentimes steers a product’s direction. We encourage users to let us know how they are using the product.

Karen: So I should give everyone your home numbers?
Geeks:
They can reach us through www.HuntGeek.com. Would love to hear from them.

Cabela’s Turkey Classic: A gift card to conservation

I don’t know about you, but I L-O-V-E gift cards.

(Hint, hint … friends, family and charitable strangers.)

Some people think they’re an impersonal gift, a cop out if you will. I think they’re wonderful. Gift cards give you license to shop guilt free. You’re spending someone else’s dime, after all.

Dozens of new NWTF members are getting Cabela’s gift cards this spring for simply being at the right place at the right time.

Folks who come to 14 Cabela’s stores for the Turkey Classic events, either by accident or design, and signed up for a $35 NWTF annual membership receive a $25 gift card to the store.

What a bargain! What lucky sons of guns!

Just think about it. An unsuspecting person heads to Cabela’s to pick up a gadget for turkey season. A friendly NWTF volunteer stops them and asks them to join the greatest conservation group around. Then Sally or Sammy Shopper thinks to herself or himself, Gee, I love to hunt turkeys. I should really join the NWTF to do my part to ensure turkeys are around for my kids and grandkids to hunt.

He or she forks over $35. They get a membership with many privileges, including discounts, a super duper magazine and the knowledge they helped make a difference in conservation.

Voila! Mr. or Mrs. Shopper is now an NWTF supporter, and because they’re at one of the Cabela’s Turkey Classic events, they get $25 toward that gadget they were after.

What a win!

And you can win, too. Just go to one of the weekend in-store Cabela’s Turkey Classics:

WHEN                    WHERE                        
March 3-4               Buda, Texas
March 17-18           Fort Worth, Texas
March 17-18           Allen, Texas
March 24-25           Kansas City, Kan.
March 31-April 1     Hazelwood, Mo.
March 31-April 1     Rogers, Minn.
March 31-April 1     Hamburg, Pa.
March 31-April 1     Prairie du Chien, Wis.
March 31-April 1     Richfield, Wis.
March 31-April 1     La Vista, Neb.
March 31-April 1     Owatonna, Minn.
March 31-April 1     Dundee, Mich.
April 21-22              Triadelphia, W.Va.
April 28-29              Scarborough, Maine

Now that the commercial is over, here’s the real scoop.

According to Cindy Williams, NWTF marketing manager, Cabela’s donated 60 gift cards to each of the NWTF local chapters listed above to help them recruit more members. NWTF volunteers hang out in the stores to sign up members and raise public awareness of the great work the NWTF is doing to conserve upland habitat, creating more places to hunt and educating new hunters.

Each chapter that signs up 60 members gets a $500 Cabela’s gift card to use how they want, like to buy equipment for outreach events or auction items to raise money for the NWTF’s mission.

Again, a win! The NWTF gets more members, and Cabela’s gets more happy shoppers.

The commercial and reality are really one in the same. So stop by your local Cabela’s Turkey Classic, join the NWTF and get the gift card. You’ll be better for it (and so will the future of wildlife).

Check your guts here

We’re wrapping up editing/designing the May-June Turkey Country, and I have a headache.

I think it’s stress.

It’s our annual NWTF National Convention wrap-up issue, which I really enjoy piecing together, because we’re giving so many awesome volunteers their due credit. However, it’s this particular part of magazine production that puts me on edge. All these teeny-tiny loose ends just dangle above my head, waiting for me to do SOMETHING with them.

My mind splits into two voices. But instead of an angel telling me to do what’s right and a little devil telling me what I want to hear, I have a mini-Debbie Downer on one shoulder saying, You’ll never get it all done, and a pom-pom-toting cheerleader on the other chanting what’s inevitable: You can do it! You always do! Now make it happen!

Stupid cheerleader…

Just when I’m about to blow out the candles on the pity party cake I’ve made, a letter blips into my inbox. (Seems like this happens to me a lot.)

It’s from a mother in Jasper, Ga., wanting to tell someone at the NWTF what our national convention meant to her son, to her family.

The letter moved me so much that I edited down the others in the Fan Mail section to squeeze it in at the last minute. Here’s the full version:

If you ever wondered what a profound impact your national convention has on people, I think our story should clear up any questions.

Let me tell you about my child, Jeff. My husband and I adopted both our children from Georgia’s Department of Family and Children Services when Jeff was 3 and his sister was 5. They had been severely abused by their birth parents; Jeff was taken from them at 8 months. We were their seventh home due to Jeff’s severe behavior due to being starved, neglected and abused. But we decided that we were meant to be their parents, that this is what God intended.

Jeff Buckingham traveled a long, emotional road to meet his hunting idol, Michael Waddell.

Jeff, now 14, has had a lot of obstacles to overcome, with the greatest being post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s a mental issue that has resulted in him not liking loud noises (like guns). He’s also restless and can’t stand being pushed or touched in large crowds.

Jeff grew to love us, especially my 80-year-old father, who due to his age is unable to hunt but passed that intense love down to Jeff. We wondered how Jeff would handle the being still and quiet, which is required for hunting, but he has thrived. He has hunted turkey, deer and coyotes.

Hunting led him to join our local shotgun team. He’s also discovered bow hunting and mowed grass all last summer to save money for his first bow.

Now let me tell what your organization’s convention meant to Jeff.

He went with his father, but was nervous about the large amount of people who would be there. We told him that he’s a teenager now, and he needs to cope with his issues so they don’t keep him from doing what he loves.

My husband said they had to leave the building several times the first day for Jeff to get fresh air because of the crowds. But Jeff would then look to him and say, “Let’s try it again.”

Then came the moment Jeff had been waiting for — meeting Michael Waddell. He said, “If I don’t get to do anything but see him, I will be happy.”

As you can expect, the line to see Michael Waddell was long, and the crowd was heavy. Jeff told his dad several times he thought he was getting sick. But he was so excited that he was able to work through the lines, fighting his desire to flee, to meet his hunting hero. It was a huge moment for Jeff.

So if your group has ever wondered what impact it has on young people, know that Jeff is now a member of Xtreme JAKES and plans on returning to your convention next year. Thank you, Traci Buckingham

This letter serves way more than a gut check; it’s a testament to what hunting does for the human spirit and how NWTF members perpetuate it.

God works through us, and most of the time we don’t even realize it. I mean, who in the convention exhibit hall would have seen Jeff as any different than the next teenage boy seeking an autograph from Michael Waddell? None of us would have never known of Jeff’s amazing story had his mother not felt lead to share what was on her heart.

The next time you’re setting up tables for a Hunting Heritage banquet, staking down directional signs for a shooting event, or in my case, finishing up an issue of Turkey Country, pause for a moment and offer up a small prayer in the name of your efforts.

You never know who God’s going to bless that day. It just may be you.

Winning!

I think I gained about 5 pounds reading the recipes submitted by those of you who either:

A)   have mercy on me now that I’ve taken on a huge cookbook project
B)   like to win wicked cool prizes
C)   really enjoy cooking

I can respect all three reasons.

Seriously, y’all have sent in some yummy sounding stuff. I say “sounding” because I haven’t prepared any of them…yet. (I’ve got to stick to apples and low-fat granola to get in shape for turkey season, then I’m gonna blow the diet with gusto!)

And now it’s time to announce the top camo chefs and their recipes.

BEST SOUNDING BREAKFAST DISH

Tom Nare of California will receive a black and pewter NWTF logo mug for his Wild Duck/Goose Breakfast Scramble.

BEST SOUNDING DESSERT or DRINK

Jim Kelly of Georgia gets a three-pack of Knight & Hale’s Bad Medicine Series diaphragm calls just in time for opening day. Good luck, Jim! Bet you’ll mix up some Wild Turkey Bourbon Slushies if you get one, won’t ya?

I didn’t receive any packable snack recipes, so I’m giving away two prizes for…

BEST SOUNDING SOUP, SALAD or SANDWICH

Beth Cowgill of Missouri can relax to a dogwood-scented, Eastern wild turkey-themed candle handmade by best female editor of a turkey magazine under 5-foot-2. She gets it for sending in her Aunt Bubba’s Baked Turkey and Potato Soup recipe. (Here’s a cute little twist: She’s Aunt Bubba!)

And Quaker Boy’s own Ernie Calendrelli can pack out meat for his awesome-sounding Wild Game Cutlet Sandwiches in the new soft-sided camo cooler that’s being sent his way.

Congrats to you all. And most of all, thanks for taking part in what’s turning out to be a really fun project. I already have delicious recipes and camp cooking back stories from hunting greats Will Primos, Cuz Strickland and Troy Ruiz.

You should join in the fun. Send the 411 on your favorite camp dishes to keepingupwithkaren@nwtf.net.

Also, don’t miss out on current and future giveaways through this blog. There’s actually one happening right now around the March-April issue of Turkey Country.

The best way to stay in the loop is to friend me on Facebook.

Yes, I realize that’s basically buying friends. But it’s not weird if you admit it, right?

 

Grab your March-April issue and let’s go for a walk

Who’s gotten their March-April issue of Turkey Country yet? Who’s already read their copy? Of course, you all have…

Well, here’s the deal on my side of the desk.

By the time an issue of Turkey Country reaches your mailbox, it’s all but a distant memory to us on the magazine staff. We’re already halfway through producing the next one (May-June in this case), with the articles for the one after that (July-August) in the hopper, waiting for us to put our baddest ninja moves on them.

Spring won't have officially sprung until next week, but the season has arrived in Turkey Country!

So, when I make these why-I-love-the-current-issue-of-Turkey Country posts, it’s really a walk down Memory Lane. And that lane has a fork in it.

The happy prong of the fork, the one paved with candy, with friendly blue jays chirping in the trees, is the path where I am reminded of all the great information that goes in each issue.

That’s not simply a pat on the back of the magazine staff (though they deserve one). It’s more of a GO TEAM NWTF moment, when I realize how much good work we’re doing as an organization.

The other side of Memory Lane is the one where you trip over the gnarly roots of the mistake tree. Some genius once said, ”I do my best proofreading after I hit send.” Same goes for a magazine. Just goes to show we’re hard working, not perfect.

Let’s hop back over to the other path and chat about my favorite stuff in the March-April issue. There are so many articles that make me do a happy dance, I’ve grouped them in sections. Here goes:

STUFF THAT MAKES ME PROUD TO BE AN NWTF MEMBER/STAFFER

Even though it seems as if EVERYONE was talking about the Outdoor Legends Tour the last couple weeks, some folks might be a bit late to the game. In this issue’s On The Horizon (more affectionately known as CEO Notes), George Thornton sets up his trip to visit our troops overseas. Read his notes in the magazine to get the background, then send your cursor on a short trip to the right and click on George’s Outdoor Legends Tour link for seven days of diary entries from his experience.

Because of NWTF members, more than 77,000 people WEREN’T hungry last holiday season. The Turkey Hunters Care program, which started in 2001, has been a wonderful, effective community outreach effort for our chapters who donate frozen turkeys and fixin’s to families in need each year. A big high-five to the 167 chapters that participated in the most recent effort. Read about them in The Caller.

Love the wild turkey range map in the annual Turkey Country SPRING HUNT GUIDE? Wish you had a big honkin’ one to hang in your bedroom under your Jackie Chan poster? Buy one for only $9.99 at www.OutdoorDealHound.com.

Four words: I LOVE BRENDA VALENTINE. Her column, Hen Tracks, just makes me smile every time it pops into my e-mail inbox. The one she wrote for the March-April issue, “The best kind of insurance policy,” articulately explained why your NWTF membership is important, not just to you as an individual, but for the future of hunting. You rock, Ms. Brenda…

Did you read Randy Green’s Wheelin’ & Able column? It’ll be the first of many. The super dynamic volunteer from Illinois is now our Wheelin’ Sportsmen national coordinator. It’s so cool when an active volunteer joins the staff. And Randy is nothing short of exceptional. Y’all be sure to make him feel at home. Flood his e-mail with welcome notes. I’m sure he doesn’t have a lot to do, starting a new job, finding a house, relocating his family and all.

STUFF THAT MAKES ME PROUD TO BE A HUNTER

News Flash: Hunting safer than cheerleading! For real, you are 25 times more likely to get hurt building a pyramid for your home team than toting a gun to the woods in search of critters. GO! FIGHT! WIN! This victory goes to hunters, because you earned it. Read more about it in this issue’s Showcase.

Who doesn’t want to be associated with the cool guys? I know I do. And we just updated www.turkeycountrymagazine.com with interviews from a couple of the coolest guys in turkey calling — Chris Parrish and Mark Prudhomme. Bask in their hunting genius as they give you tips for taking on the woods this spring.

STUFF THAT REINFORCES THAT I JUST MIGHT NOT BE RIGHT IN THE HEAD

Page 52 – Cook Nook: I’m not grossed out by the thoughts of eating a turkey neck. However, my stomach turns just LOOKING at that dollop of mayonnaise. Yep, I’m that turned off by it.

Page 148 – Species Spotlight: Even though it destroys millions of ash trees that are valuable to wildlife, I have to admit the emerald ash borer is cute. But it must die…

Page 150 – Landowner Resources: I’m pretty pumped that purple has made its way into hunting, and not just in some marketing scheme to get more women to buy a product. Purple is the new “No Trespassing” in Illinois. Pretty awesome.

George’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 7

We started our final day in the Persian Gulf region at the ball field, with Ryan Klesko and Michael Waddell pitching for each side. Ryan knocked Michael off the mound with a line drive on the first pitch. The ball hit Michael everywhere but in the glove. He shook it off like a champ and kept on pitching. Most impressive play of the day: Ryan knocked the ball out of the park, setting an Arabian Gulf home run distance record for a ball that flew over the center field fence and through three concertina barriers. That one will stand in the record books for a while.

It is our last day in theatre and without a doubt our most interesting and enjoyable.

We started our final day in the Persian Gulf region at the ball field, with Ryan Klesko and Michael Waddell pitching for each side. Most impressive play of the day: Ryan knocked the ball out of the park, setting an Arabian Gulf home run distance record.

We visited a Patriot missile battery and received a briefing on the duties of the company charged with the defense of the base. The men and women were proud to demonstrate their skills and capabilities.

We received a brief on the camp’s mission from the commanding officer. The size of the responsibility, geography covered and assets deployed is incredible. The base supports on-the-ground activity in Afghanistan 24/7. The commander rolled out the red carpet for us. He had received reports from our visits to other camps and bases and was happy to have us with his troops.

After the briefing we visited a U2 operation where we saw how the pilots are suited up in space suits. We met the pilots and talked with them about their responsibilities and backgrounds. Several within the ranks are hunters.

We were given the opportunity to ride in the chase car that assists in the landing of these specialized aircraft. We chased the U2 at 90+ miles per hour, and the pilot driving the car talked the U2 down. Fascinating! The plane was returning from a 10-hour flight, and piloted by a professional young woman from Atlanta. I believe she is the first female U2 pilot. It’s hard to imagine the discipline and self-control required to do this job. The U2 mission is aerial surveillance over the entire region. By the way, the planes cost $250 million each. The plane itself is pretty basic. The avionics are most impressive.

The F-15 flight line was the next stop. The crew chief gave us a hands-on tour where we talked with young fighter pilots. Just like Top Gun, these are very confident and professional young men. Their mission is the air defense of our Arabian Gulf assets. They are the real deal, one-on-one warriors.

Next we toured an AWACS plane. (AWACS spelled out is Airborne Warning and Control System.) These are radar and communication centers in the sky. I asked the general about their capabilities. He said one AWACS alone could manage a small war. There were quite a few on the tarmac. Several are in the air at all times.

We then had the privilege of going into the Global Hawk hanger. The Global Hawk Drone is a remote-controlled, full-sized aircraft that can act as a communications relay, an offensive weapon or a spy in the sky.  Just standing beside one leaves you in awe of our technical capabilities.

We then returned to quarters and packed for the 30-hour trip home. After dinner, we headed back to the Rec Room for conversations with the troops. Many of the troops came back for a second night and to send us off.  I feel we made some friends whom we will see again. We made commitments to assist everyone interested in setting up hunts when they return. At 10:30 p.m. (2230 hours), it was loading time for the trip home.

I truly believe we achieved our mission of letting our troops know how much support they have back home. Their jobs are difficult, intense and sometimes very stressful and lonely. All of us who were fortunate enough to go on this tour want to thank Armed Forces Entertainment for making this trip possible.

We also want to thank Susan Korbel for escorting us and making the logistics appear to be effortless.

Mostly we want to thank the men and women of our Armed Forces for the jobs they do every day on behalf of everyone in the free world. These people are the real “1 percent” who need to recognized and appreciated.

We believe that Col. Lew Deal and another group of Outdoor Legends will make a similar trip later in the year. I hope they do and that they will share their experiences with us.

— George

Click here to read more about the Outdoor Legends Tour on NWTF Spokesman Michael Waddell’s blog.

George’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 6

We spent the majority of our sixth day moving to a new location on the Arabian Gulf Coast, once again a new country and a new city where not long ago there was a tribal kingdom. Compared to other places we’ve visited, the political situation differs greatly here, and it’s a much larger host country. Its cities are modern, with business infrastructure and beautiful housing. It is a strong ally.

We are the guests of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, and are running late because of an administrative mix-up between our host country and us. We have just enough time for a short visit to the Corp of Engineers work area where we are briefed on the construction history and future plans for the area. Maintaining adequate drinking water and public health is a major enterprise.

It was a long day, but we were energized by the personal warmth and energy in our reception by the airmen.

The commanding officer of the Fire Brigade is anxious for us to visit their 9-11 Monument. He was at Ground Zero on that fateful day and lost half his group there. The COE and Fire Protection personnel are extremely proud of their monument to fallen heroes, and for serving with a man who distinguished himself in the line of duty and suffered the loss of so many comrades.

It is getting late. We invite them to join us for a meet and greet after dinner.

We gathered in the Recreation Center to talk about hunting, fishing and home. The room is full when we arrive, much like the night before at the previous base.

The general introduces us and tells the group we are here to express the gratitude of their countrymen for their service. He then opens the evening to group discussions and a question-and-answer period, which goes on until 11 p.m. (That’s 2300 hours in military jargon.) The small group discussions and card games continue until after 1 a.m.

I am amazed at the interest in hearing stories from Jim Zumbo, Jerry Martin, Michael Waddell and Ryan Klesko. The questions range from favorite hunting gear and hunts to most dangerous experiences to how did they find employment in the hunting and outdoors industry. There was a lot of talk about first hunting experiences (theirs and ours) and people who influenced our lives.

One airmen commented that he couldn’t believe that a group of hunters had been sent out after all the comics and rap artists they have seen in the past.

The questions still remain: Did we have an impact on these men and women? Were we successful in our goal?

Here’s one instance when I know we made a difference:

As we met with the troops, Ryan and Michael talked about the role their parents played in their career choices. Ryan’s mother worked two jobs and destroyed her health, while encouraging him to pursue his baseball dreams with his talents. Michael talked about his father’s support, which resulted in him winning a turkey calling contest that changed his life.

The next morning, a young airman who took part in the discussion asked a chaplain to help him contact his father. The father and son had been estranged for years and had not talked at all during his deployment. We were told that with the chaplain’s assistance they spoke and have begun rebuilding their relationship.

That evening, we offered a baseball game with Ryan pitching. Schedules rapidly changed, and we were given access to the baseball diamond between 8:30 and 9:30 the following morning.

— George

Click here to read more about the Outdoor Legends Tour on NWTF Spokesman Michael Waddell’s blog.

Peek-a-boo! It’s me! Karen. Remember?

It’s just me, peeking into my blog. Just checking on you all. Hoping you’re doing well.

Those reports from George Thornton and the Outdoor Legends Tour have been pretty cool, right? What an amazing opportunity.

Well, I’m popping back in with a little post to get you prepared for the spring season. With all this overseas excitement, you didn’t forget about turkey season, did ya? I didn’t think so.

So, here’s a question for the ages: What’s better than finding out you’re good at something?

Answer: Finding out you totally stink at something (ranging turkeys in the field), then realizing there’s something you can do about it (use a rangefinder).

A couple coworkers and I did a little experiment. We stuck an Avian X decoy in various hunting scenarios — in an open field, across a creek bed, up a hill side — and did our best to guess the yardage.

Then we were gut-checked by a Leupold RX-1000i TBR rangefinder.

Nothing beats being told you’re stupid by a piece of gear that weighs less than 8 ounces.

Click here to read more. Then watch the video below.

You’ll see me totally blow my first attempt at guessing the distance to the decoy in an open field.

You’ll witness my superstar dance as I manage to somewhat accurately guess two out of three scenarios.

You’ll understand why I desperately need a rangefinder in the field.

George’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 5

We are on a small base, and its mission is to provide 24/7/365 support for all operations in the hot parts of the theatre. They take care of things like refueling, cargo, limited fighter support. We feel privileged to glimpse into the logistic and emergency support that is necessary to our success.

Our first stop on the base was a briefing by the commanding officer. It’s a shame our press does not report the great job our people are doing over here. Truly amazing.

When we arrived at the camp gate, the security force met us with a sign that said, “PETA Members Only — No Hunters.” They are all avid hunters and had been preparing for our visit.

During the day we got to see every part of the operation, from fire fighters to security forces, supply and communications. We made a special effort to personally visit all security personnel at their duty stations. They work 12 hours on/12 hours off shifts, and many would not be able to take part in our meet and greet that evening.

The high points of the day for me were:

  • Meeting a SEAL team that spent 12 quiet hours on the base, then departed for a mission we know nothing about. They took an American flag with them for Jerry Martin and will return it to him with a certificate confirming that the flag accompanied them.
  • Putting my name on a bow that one of the fireman spent five days before we arrived carving by hand just for us to sign.
  • Visiting the Security Force K-9 group and meeting Cpl. Ronnie, a German shepherd. He and his handler gave us a full demo where he used a man my size as a chew toy. Very impressive. When not working, Ronnie reminded me of Lucy, my black Lab back home.
  • Sitting in the commander’s seat of a new Striker armored vehicle. It was configured with a 105mm turret cannon, which I got to operate. Glad these are our vehicles. They have and still are saving countless lives. Worth every penny of the $1.5 million per vehicle price tag.

Michael Waddell and I had a bit of vehicle envy. We got to sit in the commander’s seat of a new Striker armored vehicle and took a ride in what can only be described as the military’s version of a fire truck — it holds 3,000 gallons and can go up to 70 mph.

  • Taking a ride in the latest model of fire truck — not your small town red fire engine. It holds 3,000 gallons of water and can shoot it up to 100 yards. It also can run at 70 mph. A bargain at $800,000.

It feels good to see the quality of maintenance that goes into our support and combat equipment.

After dinner we had a meet and greet with the troops. The Rec Room was full when we arrived. It was scheduled to go on for an hour, but the Q&A, storytelling and conversation went until almost 11 p.m. These guys are eager to hear stories from home, and all have plans for hunts when they get there.

Another long day topped off with another round of poker with the same guys from yesterday. I recovered a bit but didn’t get even.

I finally hit the sack around 1 a.m., couldn’t sleep thinking about tomorrow’s early departure, and that I was on a base that doesn’t exist! We shared time with men and women who have dedicated themselves to a critical national security mission that will never be written about — and they will never discuss.

— George

Click here to read more about the Outdoor Legends Tour on NWTF Spokesman Michael Waddell’s blog.

George’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 4

Departed Camp Arifjan for the 30-minute escorted mini bus ride to the Kuwait International Airport. As much as we have enjoyed the Kuwaiti experience, we are ready for the next stop. We have no idea who we are going to see, what the conditions will be or how many troops we will meet. But we are ready.

As we leave our quarters at 3 a.m., the temperature has dropped and the wind is gusting to what must be 40 mph. Dust storm! We have heard about them and seen videos of roiling black clouds obliterating the sun. It never seemed real until now.

We come to the main gate to leave Camp Arifjan and are told the highway is blacked out. We will be delayed for at least an hour for a possible break in the storm. We immediately begin to think about the implications of missing our flight. We could possibly lose the rest of the trip.

Who’s thanking whom? Even though the Outdoor Legends Tour is a way for us, on behalf the hunting community, to thank the military for their service, we’ve received so much gratitude in exchange from the servicemen and women. I’m so humbled to be a part of this entire experience.

Fate is on our side. After only a few minutes and an appeal to the main security center, we are told there is a break and we can proceed. Off we go. The conditions seemed OK, so what’s the big deal?

By the time we reach the airport, the bus is being buffeted by the wind and visibility is terrible. Will the flights be delayed? Again we’re in luck. We clear immigration without a hitch, except Ryan Klesko lost his visa and has to go through a special line.

We make a few suggestions about the “special” treatment we hope he receives.

Pleasant surprise, the Kuwaitis are very efficient and forgiving. Ryan sails through with no drama, and we make our departure. (Did I mention the Kuwaitis waive all visa expenses for Americans? They appreciated our friendship in Operation Desert Storm.)

At 6:30 a.m., we land to change planes and have a 4-hour layover. Then on to our next destination, a camp in southwest Asia.

We land at the airport at 6:30 p.m. to friendly people, beautiful grounds with acres of oil palms (or date palms, I can’t tell the difference). On the way to camp we see an emerging city in the desert where there were nothing but Bedouin tents 30 years ago. The rest of the scenery is desolate, aside from a few goats, cattle and an amazing number of camels. There were a few olive trees that looked barely alive. Nothing is green without irrigation. It’s just rocky, sandy hills as far as the eye can see.

Upon our arrival, we had time to catch a little shuteye after not having much for the past 48 hours.

Here are our living quarters at the camp in southwest Asia. It’s great to see first-hand how well our troops are cared for over here. The food is delicious!

That evening we headed to the mess hall for some great food. Our troops are well looked after.

We then went to the Rec Center for a poker game, where I lost my a** to a couple of friendly reservists from Maine. I was the first to retreat to our quarters.

The next morning, I was somewhat encouraged to learn the reservists proceeded to fleece our entire group.

Maybe I am not that bad a poker player after all.

— George

Click here to read more about the Outdoor Legends Tour on NWTF Spokesman Michael Waddell’s blog.