2013 NWTF Convention: In case you missed it (Always…)

Then. Now. Always. Forever. Never-ending.

That’s how long we want to keep the NWTF moving and grooving with our mission.

And how will we do that? Through the hard work of our rockin’ awesome volunteers, of course!

NWTF volunteers are super heroes when it comes to sheer passion for the mission. And Saturday night of the NWTF Convention is when we recognize the best of the best at our annual awards banquet (sponsored by MidwayUSA).

Money raised for the mission. Members recruited to the flock. Habitat conserved on behalf of wildlife. New people introduced to the fun of hunting and shooting. Those are the criteria for winning an NWTF award.

It’s awesome to see the humbleness of those recognized. Nearly all of them share credit with their committees, understanding it takes the effort of many to achieve success.

Which brings me to the another important part of Saturday night — the official roll out of the NWTF Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative.

In a nutshell, it’s a focused set of goals the NWTF believes we need to achieve to make a positive impact on wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage. It’s our super plan to face head-on certain challenges such as loss of critical habitat, decreased hunter access and attacks on our hunting heritage, to name a few.

Got five minutes? Watch this video to learn more about the initiative and discover why the Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative is the answer to some of the challenges our country faces.

Now you’re feeling the need to get involved, aren’t you? Click here to learn more about how you can be part of the dynamic team of volunteers who believe it’s crucial for our country to Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.


I’m going to just come out and say it: I believe the Sunday morning breakfast and worship service (sponsored by Remington) is the most underrated and overlooked meal function at our convention.

Maybe some folks are still coming down from the excitement of a full weekend, so they choose to sleep in. Perhaps others have to get the heck out of Dodge to make it back home before the workweek begins.

I, however, believe it to be two of the most inspiring and important hours of the convention — and I’m pretty sure the couple hundred of our volunteers who attend the breakfast agree.

It’s fun and joyful: the comedy of Dennis Swanberg and singing by Terry Thompson made sure of that.

But it’s more than a feel-good morning. It also offers serenity and perspective. I believe that what we do “for the least of these” — whether it’s a child, a wild animal, a disabled veteran or just reaching out to anyone who may need a helping hand — we’re doing it in the name of God.

I like knowing I’m investing in the future of our country when I volunteer on behalf of the NWTF. But when it comes to doing for others, belonging to a greater cause, it’s the always … forever … never-ending love of my Savior that reassures me I’m on the right track.

2013 NWTF Convention: In case you missed it (Now…)

Then. Now. Always.

It wasn’t only the theme of this year’s convention; it’s how we view the viability of the NWTF.

We have a strong past, which has proven our organization has what it takes to facilitate success, as evident in the comeback of the wild turkey.

We have a promising future with the Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt initiative.

And now is the time to make sure both have a place in history.

It’s what we do now as an organization that pays tribute to the path paved by those before us. Now is when we lay the bricks for the road ahead of us.

Totally cool to have my photo made with "Gene Simmons." Not creepy at all that I'm old enough to be this impersonator's mom...

Totally cool to have my photo made with “Gene Simmons.” Not creepy at all that I’m old enough to be this impersonator’s mom…

Those bricks aren’t made with good intentions. There’s got to be money in the mix. Money to fund our mission today and tomorrow.

That’s why the Grand National Auction is so important. Just like the thousands of auctions, raffles and fundraisers NWTF volunteers hold throughout the country each year, the Grand National — “the big daddy of ‘em all” — helps foot the bill to carry out our mission and programs. It puts money where are hearts are.

Hunts, a Chevy truck, a triple-barrel shotgun and even an entertainment center from Elvis Presley’s bedroom were up for bid. And the backdrop for the evening was celebrating 40 rockin’ years of the NWTF, complete with celebrity impersonators walking around the room.

For me, the highlight was having my photo taken with “Gene Simmons” of KISS, then using “Madonna” to help sell raffle tickets for a Kentucky elk hunt. Tell me that’s not funny…


When is the best time to tell a veteran thank you for his or her service? Now … and anytime you see one.

Their sacrifices helped pave the path that allows us to enjoy hunting, because we live in a country protected by the finest military in the world.

We began the Winchester Veteran’s Breakfast with a photo diary/video of the Outdoor Legends Tours, where members of the hunting community traveled overseas to personally thank active duty military. Many of you may have read accounts from the tour’s frontlines from NWTF CEO George Thornton and NWTF Spokesperson Brenda Valentine on this blog. If you missed it, click on their names for a link to each of their adventures and get caught up. Both offer glimpses into the everyday life of our servicemen and women.

It’s a given that I cry during this breakfast every year. And I shed a few tears listening to NWTF District Field Supervisor Dave Mahlke talk about his son’s enlistment in the Army, how he was injured in the line of duty and made an incredible recovery, as well as how hunting and family played a role in it.

As parent, I can’t fathom watching my son go through so much pain. Dang it, I’m crying just thinking about it. God bless the Mahlke family and all military families.

And if I wasn’t already a hot mess, the super-duper talented brass player Mic Gillette played the haunting notes of “Taps,” as we remembered the fallen, including Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.

The annual breakfast is always so moving to me, not by just watching what’s happening on stage, but thinking about the individual stories of the folks in the crowd.

I looked up from my production book to see a fella, probably not five years younger than me, walk with a slight limp to receive his commemorative veterans pin (an annual tradition at the breakfast). What was going through his head at that moment? Pride? Heartache? Both?

I can’t begin to understand. All I can do is offer my sincere gratitude and respect.

Thank you to Winchester and the NWTF for giving me a venue to do just that.






2013 NWTF Convention: In case you missed it (Then…)

The theme for this year’s convention was Then. Now. Always. It pretty much summed up all we were celebrating.

THEN: 2013 is the 40th anniversary of the NWTF, so there’s been a lot of talk about “back in the day,” in a cool-and-not-annoying-to-us-young-whipper-snappers kind of way. I’ve enjoyed sifting through old photos and hearing about the beginning of the organization, which has been the collective journey and beliefs of volunteers over the years.

NOW: When’s the right time to celebrate? The here and now, party people! It’s also the right time to raise money for the mission, as well as acknowledge key partners and volunteers who keep the turkey world spinning.

ALWAYS: The answer to, “How long do you want to see the NWTF survive and thrive?” And how are we going to do that? With the new initiative that was officially rolled out during the weekend — Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. (More on that later.)

Every year, the convention kicks off on Thursday night with the annual Welcome Party. Chevrolet sponsored the shindig.

The opening video for this evening is crucial. For me, it sets the tone for the entire convention. So I worked with NWTF Executive Producer John Brown to craft the video you see here.

We had multiple generations of the Kemp Family, of Edgefield, S.C., to tell the story of 40 years of the NWTF. They represent the many families who have grown up and grown with the organization, but the Kemps are one of a select few who have witnessed it all unfold in their hometown, where the NWTF headquarters is based.

Watch it and think about what the NWTF means (or could mean) to your family.

Other Welcome Party highlights:
• Will Primos telling NWTF volunteers that WE GET IT. The hunting industry icon let us know we’ve always been on track when it comes to our mission.
• Seeing NWTF District Field Supervisor Mark Jackson and his daughter, Sarah, walk on stage hand-in-hand to lead the prayer and National Anthem. This Tennessee family is another example of how the NWTF has impacted several generations.
Bass Pro Founder John L. Morris’ generosity. Sure the money is freakin’ awesome, but it also means a lot to have such a formidable partner.
• And, of course, Sawyer Brown proved they’re not just a blast from the past. They’ve still got it when it comes to a high-energy performance.

Check, please! Thanks Bass Pro for your continued support!

Check, please! Thanks Bass Pro for your continued support!

Moving on to Friday’s breakfast sponsored by Federal Premium Ammunition. It’s the annual recognition of remarkable volunteers who have made the NWTF outreach and education programs their calling.

We used the morning to showcase these programs’ valuable place in the NWTF’s overall history, as well as how they play a huge part in carrying out our founder Tom Rogers’ overall vision.

Two standout moments of the breakfast, for me, were:
NWTF Educator of the Year Scott Cronin announcing his students received a grant for their annual trek to the convention (where they learn about careers in the hunting and conservation industries). They, in turn, donated the $600 they’d raised to come to Nashville to Hope for the Warriors on behalf of the NWTF. Thanks, guys!
• Seeing Virginia NWTF volunteer Robin Clark’s smile as he accepted an award on behalf of his chapter. There are some people who brighten your day, even if you only see them across the room. Robin is one of those folks…

I know a missed a million more awesome moments. I hope you’ll share yours with me — and we can live vicariously through each other! So talk to me: What were your favorite convention moments from Thursday night and Friday morning?

2013 NWTF Convention: In case you missed it

I can’t believe it’s been a week since the NWTF Convention and Sport Show in Nashville. That entire weekend zipped by, but this week back in the office seemed to go by even faster.

With all the yelps, clucks and howdy-do hugs going around, it’s hard to imagine anybody wasn’t at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. And if you’re into Facebook or Twitter trolling, I bet you felt like you were there, with all the posts and tweets flying around.

The theme of the NWTF Convention this year was Then. Now. Always. The weekend was like a time warp of conservation success.

The theme of the NWTF Convention this year was Then. Now. Always. The weekend was like a time warp of conservation success.

In case you weren’t at the biggest turkey celebration on Earth (or even if you were there, but couldn’t be two places at once), I’m going to fill you in on what I know.

But don’t feel like you’re out of the loop, I’m just learning most of it myself — including details like we had a record-breaking convention attendance, more folks joining the NWTF onsite and more turkey people roosting at the Gaylord Hotel than ever before. It was HUGE! At least that’s what I hear…

This was my view for most of the convention — screens, screens and more screens. But screens can be a source of excitement, when you're doing a live show.

This was my view for most of the convention — screens, screens and more screens. But screens can be exciting when you’re doing a live show.

You see, my perch for the entire convention was on a small riser in the back of the Delta Ballroom. I barely left that cavernous space other than to sleep, so my snapshot of the NWTF convention was what happened on stage during the breakfast and dinner shows. Those held enough action in themselves; not sure I could’ve handled much more excitement.

We had country music stars, Army generals, hunting industry executives and a trumpet player grace the boards of the stage — and that was in less than 24 hours!

Sounds like a circus, doesn’t it. In many ways it was. But that’s my job at convention, to manage the circus.

I worked with a fabulous production team (called PRG) to choreograph a parade of speakers and entertainers, as well as breathe life into hundreds of graphics, PowerPoint slides and videos to create six separate celebrations, each a part of the NWTF mission.

Check back for the skinny on what happened in the Delta.

The warmest place on Earth in January? South Dakota!

The weather outside was frightful, but inside the Watertown (S.D.) Convention Center was so delightful — thanks to the warm hospitality of NWTF South Dakota volunteers.

I spent last weekend with a few dozen of them at their annual state convention, where they handed out awards for awesomeness in volunteerism and events. I served as the keynote speaker, did a seminar on communicating with nonhunters, and spread general goodwill on behalf of the NWTF headquarters staff. It was an easy task with this great group of folks.

Here I am with my South Dakota NWTF “host” family, the Schauers. Dad Ron was inducted into the state’s NWTF hall of fame for his volunteerism. All three of them got my stamp of greatness for taking care of me during my stay.

Here I am with my South Dakota NWTF “host” family, the Schauers. Dad Ron was inducted into the state’s NWTF hall of fame for his volunteerism. All three of them got my stamp of greatness for taking care of me during my stay.

It began when the Schauer Family picked me up from the Sioux Falls airport, saving this Southern gal a potential stroke of having to drive in below freezing temps, dodging ice patches or waiting for pending doom as the snow crept in.

They said, “South Dakota volunteers are like family.” I found that to be true as they instantly took me in and made me one of their own for a few days. I felt like an exchange student from the other “South” state.

But the family vibe was even more evident watching the volunteers interact with each other. They spent just as much time encouraging each other and pitching in to help, as they did ribbing and poking fun in a good-natured way. Looks like a family reunion to me, no?

I found it wonderful how so many “flesh and blood” families came to the convention as well, proving the NWTF offers something for everyone. Among the training seminars on turkey hunting and NWTF events, the Bramble Park Zoo brought in critters for kids of all ages (like me) to pet and get a closer look — a hedge hog, bearded dragon and, ew, snakes, to name a few.

Conference planners also offered a visit to renowned artist and son of Watertown Terry Redlin’s museum. I slipped in and took a fast-forward tour of the three levels of original art and prints, thanks to my NWTF sister Becky Schauer hauling my tail over there between speaking engagements.

I’m thinking this Dakota didn’t get its “prefix” based on geography; it’s because it gives the South (as in Dixie) a run for its money on hospitality.

Thanks, South Dakota NWTF, for a great weekend. And I’ll be thinking of you until spring comes and thaws out your awesome state — and brings turkey season your way.


Evangelistic hunter

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I have a habit of accepting all friend requests on Facebook. Nine times out of 10 it’s from a middle-aged guy with some sort of dead critter in his profile picture. Sounds about right. Accept.

So I was taken aback the other day when a fella launched into an (albeit calm) attack on hunting and my friends who hunt.

Stranger still, he posted his comment on an image of my son dressed as a sheep for our church children’s nativity. I could better understand if it was on a photo of me with a deer or turkey.

You can read the exchange between Phil and me in its entirety on my Facebook page; just look for the post of a cute little kid dressed as a sheep.

Instead of ignoring him, I thought perhaps, because the ensuing conversation was on a non-hunting-related post, my explanations would go beyond preaching to the choir. Maybe this conversation had a greater purpose.

I didn’t delve into a “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition” response. He approached me as a British gentleman, and I answered as a Southern Belle. He entered into this conversation on my turf, and I rolled out the hospitality.

Here’s the exchange, edited for content and to fit this screen.

Phil: I have actually no idea as to why I am a friend on Facebook, still it is super. I am British, I make no apology for that, but I am asked if I know all these people. I naturally decline as they seem to spend most of their time killing animals. What is the kick in that? I did leave South Bend, Indiana, as it seemed full of folk with guns, low on IQ.

Me: Not sure how we connected on Facebook either. I’m always open to meeting new folks, and maybe our meeting happened for a reason. I hunt, as do many of my friends on Facebook and beyond. I don’t associate hunting with a low IQ, and I don’t expect everyone to understand why people hunt. It’s an individual decision; everyone has his or her own reasons. I’m proud to be a hunter, because I find more satisfaction in serving a meal of venison that I put in the time to harvest than I do grilling hamburgers made from beef wrapped in cellophane from the grocery store. I hunt because I enjoy the intimacy it offers in regards to nature. More often than not, I leave the woods empty-handed but just as fulfilled that I spent time in the beauty of the outdoors. I hunt, because in the United States, hunters foot the bill for 80 percent of our state wildlife agencies’ budgets. Those agencies do the research it takes to maintain healthy habitats and wildlife populations for everyone to enjoy, whether they hunt or simply watch wildlife. I don’t expect everyone to want to hunt. Most of my family doesn’t, and that’s cool. But I’m always willing to share why I do…and it’s not just for kicks. It’s deeper than that. And I’m pretty sure most hunters you ask will have the same sort of personalized response. Thanks for taking time to “listen.”

Phil: Thank you for your lengthy explanation. I respect your response. I do find it difficult to understand “I hunt because I enjoy the intimacy it offers in regards to nature.” Killing a healthy animal for no reason than “to be able to do it” is sad. Just fight it head on; do not hide behind a weapon. Then you would lose. I am glad you enjoy killing animals; for me, it is visiting different places, cultures and exploring. I respect all you and your friends, perhaps a simple difference of opinion. Take care. You are polite and responsive.

Me: We have something in common. I like to visit different places too, and hunting allows me to do that. You really get to see the land and people, not just touristy stuff. But we have a differing opinion on killing animals. I believe animals were put on this earth as part of an intricate food chain. I believe God gave man/woman dominion over them. I don’t feel bad about taking the life of an animal I’ll eat. It’s no different than eating chicken or beef from a store. But, actually, it is. I’ve taken responsibility and look head-on at my quarry instead of ignoring the fact that the meat in the grocery ever had a face. A life was taken either way. Hunting is a very emotional experience, and my enjoyment doesn’t come from the act of killing. The joy comes from the hunt. It’s hard to fully explain until you’ve been a part of it. I certainly respect your decision not to hunt. And even more so, I respect that you have engaged in this discussion in a friendly manner.

Phil: I can see that you are an adventurist. I am forced to agree, as I just returned from shopping and indeed am eating pork for my supper. So yes, it was raised and killed for me. I must say I think it very sad when an animal with young a female mother is killed. It destroys the next generation and the offspring die. That surely is self-defeating, however, I love this interchange of ideas, thoughts and being meat eaters.

At this point, I figured I’d made some significant headway with Phil. I’m sure he’ll never hunt, but maybe he understands why people do a bit more than before. I thought my witnessing on behalf of hunting took hold, until this morning’s entry by ol’ Phil (this time, edited for young eyes):

Phil: Seems to me all your so-called friends just kill animals, so live well. They are all @$$holes. They even have a photo, with a gun. Pr!cks, of the lust of death. Sorry they are not educated, smart. In Great Britain, we would call them %!@#heads. Sorry they are sad @$$es.

Sorry, Phil. You’re no longer my “friend.”

Celebrate Thanksgiving with Bob and Tom in Turkey Country

Started this morning on the Bob and Tom Show again, but this time I had a head’s up and wasn’t blindsided by the madness. We chatted a bit about Thanksgiving, turkey hunting, going to my Aunt Nanci’s, stuff like that. No random comments about hotness or turkey necks. It was really subdued compared to the last time — but still fun.

If you missed my first interview with Team Bob and Tom, click here to check out the crazy mess.

If you already heard it, then you know the back story behind this wacky Turkey Country cover. Our staff decided to have a little fun and sent this to the show’s producer. Between us hens, this is as close as Bob or Tom will get to gracing our cover for real — unless they decide to start turkey hunting.

If I’m on their show enough, maybe I can convince them. (Or at least get Kristy Lee to a Women in the Outdoors event. Two gals with guns? Nothing hotter than that!)

Stay tuned for today’s interview. Until then, HAPPY TURKEY DAY! And don’t forget to dig in with a thankful heart…


Thanksgiving is fast approaching. Whoo-hoo!

That means people start calling the National Wild Turkey Federation looking for someone to talk turkey. And sometimes they end up with me.

Earlier this week I chatted with Jim and Trav on The Revolution — one wacky outdoor radio show. Click here to hear it. (Be patient. It may take a minute or so to load. And, yes, it’s a hour-long show, but I’m the first one up.)

They were searching for someone to talk about cooking wild turkey. Their first pick was James Africano, executive chef for Vermejo Park Ranch in New Mexico. Chef James couldn’t do the interview, but remembered me from my hunt out there this spring … and that I’m working on a cookbook for the NWTF.

Basically, I was the consolation prize. But I’m not hurt, because I learned a couple things about myself during my 10-minute on-air stint.

1. I say “you know” WAY too much.
2. If you answer questions with enough authority, people believe you.

I’m not talking about the cooking tips. Those I have down pat. It was the turkey trivia.

I feel bad because some of my answers were, well, bad. And I won the trivia contest with these bad answers. So I’m here to set the record straight.

Turkeys CAN fly 55 miles per hour.

I wasn’t TOTALLY wrong. They fly 35 mph (which is what I said), but they do it in order to get to 55.

Now, I know. And you do too.


Happy Halloween from Keepin’ Up With Karen

Happy Halloween from the girls of Keepin’ Up With Karen. Melanie Swearingen came to work dressed as Abby from NCIS, and I was decked out in my Halloween finest. We snapped this symbolic shot in the NWTF server room (which we helped crash a month or so ago). Like Abby, Melanie is much of the brains behind this blog. Me? I’m the one who acts crazy (see crazy hat) and is always distracted (find hidden cell phone). It’s spooky how it all seems to come together.

Today was a fun day at the National Wild Turkey Federation.

A ton of folks came to work dressed in costume, and we had a pumpkin carving contest.

Amid the candy corn, pumpkin guts and laughter, we did some work, too.

I want to wish you all a happy, spooktastic night.

Whether you’re hunting for deer, turkey or candy — be safe out there.


Get over yourself

I photographed the inaugural Wounded Veteran Dove Hunt in Monetta, S.C., last weekend. It was just a quick jaunt up the road from my house, and we needed more photos to help promote the NWTF Wheelin’ Sportsmen program.

The daylong sporting clays and dove shoot was sure to present a ton of shots (pun intended) of people with disabilities enjoying the outdoors.

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