The odd couple of turkey hunting

It’s the makings of good entertainment — with the likes of Sonny and Cher, Dharma and Greg — but how does it stack up in the turkey woods?

On the second day of my Oklahoma turkey hunt, after taking down a longbeard the day before, I was matched up to hunt with David Schluckebier of Remington. Dave is an engineer, serving as a manager for new product development on the ammunition side.

If you’ve kept up with me at all (or know me just because), well, I’m a certifiable goof wad. A creative type. With an imagination that sometimes makes for good writing, and a sense of humor you either get or you don’t.

Dave and I are total opposites. He rides bicycles with his wife; I cruise around the countryside on the back of my husband’s Harley. He’s methodical, and my mind tends to wander without warning. He has kids in college and roundabouts; mine won’t graduate high school until 2025 (Lord willing).

But Dave and I found our unlikely pairing works when turkey hunting. We began our gobbler chasing careers around the same time (roughly 12 years ago), and our skill sets seemed to compliment each other while hunting in Cheyenne this April.

We spent our first morning and early afternoon together team calling, only to bring in jakes and hens by the bucketful. (I’m pretty sure Dave could tell you exactly how many of each from each setup.)

Our afternoon hunt culminated in a gobbler traipsing by us, eyeing our decoys, then choosing to stick with the three or so ladies he had with him, never coming within 50 yards. That’s still a good hunt in my book.

Dave and I stuck together the final morning, not seeing anything broke about our turkey hunting team. We’d found a busy crossroads for turkeys and wanted to see if it would take us down a path to success.

Remington’s Dave Schluckebier and I may not walk similar paths in life, but when it comes to turkey hunt, we’re on the same track.

We set out across a shrubby shallow bowl to our hot spot on a wooded ridge. Or at least that was the plan. We walked until we hit a fence, a literal barbed wire fence, one we hadn’t noticed the day before.

Then I realized Dave and I had at least two things in common: 1. We were lost.
2. We had healthy doses of determination.

After about 15 more minutes of walking, Dave said he’d found our sacred setup spot. I had my doubts but also carried enough respect for Dave to go along without too much argument.

As the rising sun softly lit the sky, I could see we were nestled among the wind-weathered trees, just like the day before. However I still wasn’t convinced we were in the right place.

Wasn’t there more canopy in the forest yesterday?

I didn’t remember that brush to my left.

And I’m pretty sure we were a good 100 yards further away from the ridge’s edge than we were the day before.

But I remained silent, as I watched the fan attached to our strutting decoy wave around like a Southern belle who’s had one too many mint juleps.

I kept quiet, listening to the wind turbines looming over our setup. They seemed to have to work extra hard to cut through the dense, damp air.

I struggled to find a familiar landmark to shout: THIS IS THE AWESOME SPOT YOU WERE IN YESTERDAY!

No matter. If our hunt was to happen here, now was the time.

We kept our chorus of yelps, clucks and a few purrs going. And we called in the same army of jakes that seemed to not want to leave us alone.

After about an hour, we realized it wasn’t going to happen here. I peeled myself off the tree trunk with a slight tinge of smugness. I was right, this wasn’t THE place.

But just as I began to gloat internally, Dave pointed out the matted grass from where he’d sat the day before. Then he pointed out the fallen log where he’d staked the decoy not 15 hours ago.

And I learned a lesson.

Opposite personalities make for good TV and turkey hunting teams, especially when one of the pair knows when to keep her mouth shut.

The stuff of turkey hunting success

My first turkey hunt of the 2012 spring season is what’s known in the industry as a “media hunt.” It’s kind of poor grammar and slightly misleading, since it’s not as if a bunch of writers are let loose in the woods all Hunger Games-like, with the last one standing is the victor.

In reality, hunting product representatives take a group of us media types on hunt and let us use their stuff in the field in hopes we write about it in magazines, blogs, on websites and such. And, darn it, the formula works, because I’m about to tell you what gear helped me kill a turkey in Oklahoma.

Knight & Hale
www.knightandhale.com
If you’ve read at lest a handful of my posts, you know I’m a music buff. And that’s why it was love at first sight with this year’s line of Knight & Hale turkey calls. With names like Witchy Woman (The Eagles!), Bad Medicine (Bon Jovi!) and Metal Yell (sort of like Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”) I knew these calls had to rock.

Since I haven’t yet mastered the mouth call, the mint-flavored Bad Medicine series serves as not much more than a breath freshener for me. But the other two made their way to my turkey vest. I found the push-pull Witchy Woman easy to use and great for soft calling, but not much of a match for Oklahoma’s gusty afternoons. The Metal Yell, however, with its aluminum face, screamed out yelps and clucks that had the turkeys crying more…more…more…

Knight & Hale’s Witchy Woman and Metal Yell are music to a wild turkey’s ear holes.

Under Armour
www.underarmour.com/hunting
This one’s for all you women who can’t find camo that fits and is functional. I say dress like a dude (or at least give the men’s line from Under Armour a try). I was decked out in head to ankle UA — Evolution Heatgear Longsleeve T-shirt, Utility Field Pants and Hurlock Fleece Pullover — and the best compliment I could give it is that once I put it on I never thought about it again. I wore men’s smalls and didn’t even have to have the pants altered for length. For reference, I’m just shy of 5’2” and got a booty (if you know what I mean), and the fit was spot on, even with a base layer underneath. And I stayed out of sight in Realtree AP (www.realtree.com) — a great mix of browns and greens, perfect for a wet Oklahoma spring.

If the fit of the men’s line doesn’t suit your curves, Under Armour Senior Product Line Manager Mark Estrada says they are launching a women’s line of turkey hunting wear in 2013.

Remington
www.remington.com
Remington’s Versa Max was the gun of the week. Its claim to fame is that with its Versaport system it’s as close to a self-cleaning shotgun as you can get. Well, the beauty of a media hunt is that you shoot it for a week, then hand it back for someone else to deal with. The Versa Max’s shortest length of pull is 14.25 inches, about 2 inches too long for my Tyrannosaurs Rex arms, but it got the job done. Paired with Remington’s 3-inch Nitro Turkey load, it blasted the silhouette target on the range at 20 yards and took down an Oklahoma longbeard at just under 40.

Trijicon
www.trijicon.com
I’m all about stuff that makes me as accurate as possible. I feel I owe that to my quarry. Trijicon’s RMR series of sights goes beyond accuracy and could even be considered dummy proof. Simply aim the red dot at where you want to hit and pull the trigger. A lithium battery keeps it lit for 17,000 hours, so there’s no forgetting to turn it on or off. It’s the point-and-shoot of gun sites!

ATSKO
www.atsko.com
One product I didn’t use but wish I had: WATER-GUARD by ATSKO. It drizzled the last day of the hunt, and I ended my morning hunt with waterlogged boots. Have you ever replaced your boot inserts with soggy pancakes? Me neither, but I think I knew what it would feel like that day. Had I not been lazy and treated my boots before I left, my feel would’ve been dry, warm and not spit water as I walked. FYI, three days after the hunt, they’re still drying out in my garage, cursing my name.

So gear up and get out there, my hunting people! Here’s to the folks that make us look good, sound good, as well as stay warm and accurate while chasing turkeys. Cheers!

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).

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.

George’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 3

We arrived Kuwait City at midnight and were met by American Entertainment and security personnel. We then headed to Camp Arifjan, arriving about an hour and a half later. Reveille sounded great! Off to breakfast in the mess hall. The food, by the way, is outstanding.

Started meeting and talking with personnel immediately at this impressive facility. It’s basically a city of 30,000 constructed in the desert to defend Kuwait and maintain a firm regional support base. We are the guests of the Kuwaiti government as a result of liberating Kuwait from the Iraqi invasion.

We were briefed on the Camp Arifjan mission by the unit’s commanding officer, Colonel R.G. Cheatham and Command Sergeant Major D.L. Pierce. Both are active outdoorsmen and were delighted to receive us. We then moved to a meeting of more than 100 soldiers from all over Kuwait. Some had driven more than three hours from the Iraq border to see us. We had the opportunity to share our personal stories, as well as the missions of our respective organizations. We took questions and shook hands with each one.

Our soldiers are great hunters and anglers, and all miss home and the opportunity to be in the field with friends and family. There are lots of NWTF members and even more turkey hunters stationed here.

Off to Camp Patriot, a joint U.S. Army and Navy base and port shared with the Kuwaiti Navy. It’s the smallest U.S. base in Kuwait but key for supporting embarkation and deportation of personnel and materiel into the region.

We met with the 106th Armored Artillery from Minnesota and shared hunting and fishing stories from their home state. These guys are in the Army Reserve, serving on their third deployment, an incredible personal sacrifice on their part.

Commander, D. T. Lahti and 1st Sergeant J.J. Benson are big outdoorsmen. We shared a great dinner together, then headed back to Camp Arifjan.

We had promised to come back for an informal meeting at the Arifjan Recreation Center. More than 80 men and women came to meet us. Major Gen. Randy West and I left to go to a Friday night Gospel church service, but heard they had a great time. All formality was dropped as they shared non-stop stories of hunting and fishing back home. Tour members say Waddell was on his A-game and entertained everyone with stories of growing up and learning to hunt in Booger Bottom, Ga.

Major Gen. West and I enjoyed the Friday night service, where he gave a moving testimonial of his Christian life journey and the challenges to his faith he had to overcome as a young aviator in Vietnam. There were more than 100 people at the service.

We returned to the Rec Center for more fellowship and to collect the group. By 10 p.m., we were back at quarters to shower, pack and go to the airport for our next Persian Gulf destination before daylight.

I left Kuwait with these observations:

  • The older Kuwaiti generations are warm and friendly. They appreciate America, our role in helping them regain their freedom from Saddam Hussein, as well as our continued presence in their country. Can’t say the same for the 20-something generation. There seems to be a lot of resentment and anger about our presence. I guess it is human nature to forget history and take comforts for granted. A real reminder of how fragile the region is.
  • Kuwait is an extremely rich country with every citizen guaranteed a minimum income that we could only dream of. It can and does lead to a sense of entitlement, which is most evident in their driving behavior. Driving in Kuwait makes driving in Mexico City, Paris, San Paulo or New York look like bumper cars at a county fair. Aggressive to the point that some Americans leave their radio off so as to not be distracted.  Can you imagine driving in a country that prohibits touching anyone in an automobile accident for 30 minutes for religious reasons, Muslim or Christian?
  • Kuwait has a population of 2 million Kuwaitis and more than 2 million guest workers. Kuwaitis spend the winters in large tent camps (There are thousands of them.) out in the desserts, riding motorcycles, four wheelers and horses. They really enjoy getting back to their Bedouin roots.  Sounds familiar, especially to those of us who enjoy the outdoors. For all of their idiosyncrasies and the blessing (?) of wealth that they have, they are a lot like us. Lets hope that they continue to live in a stable region and enjoy their freedoms and privileges.

— George

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