Come to my “turkey work”

Tickled pink: Kara Grace Green, youngest daughter of Wheelin’ Sportsmen Coordinator Randy Green, caught her first fish at the NWTF Employee Appreciation Day.

Cooper, my 3-year-old, thinks I work at the best place ever.

He constantly asks, “Mommy, when can I come to your turkey work?” And every so often I’ll pick him up early from daycare and bring him back to the office.

In his sweet little mind, there are no deadlines or creative differences. The only inbox he’s ever had was during a Valentine’s Day party, a decorated shoebox filled with cartoon-themed cards with suckers attached.

To him, the NWTF headquarters is full of taxidermy turkeys he can (gently) touch. It’s where people call him “bud” and give him candy from their desk drawers. And a detour to the CEO’s office yielded a camo hat and turkey pin.

What is it with biologists and snake handling? Remind me to ask Scott Vance, assistant VP of conservation programs, once he puts that thing down.

The other week the NWTF held an employee appreciation event at the office, an evening of grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, games, archery, fishing, skeet shooting and (the toddler holy grail) an inflatable slide. Forget Disney World, the NWTF had to be the best place on Earth, according to Cooper.

A couple days later, I had to laugh when we drove by the office building and the little munchkin wondered out loud where the bouncy house was. If only every workday were that fun and carefree.

It’s easy to get jaded after a long week of meetings, projects and seemingly endless e-mails. We’ve all been there. Heck, even Disney loses a bit of its magic after standing in long lines and paying $20 for chicken fingers.

But when I sit back and look beyond an average day, the NWTF really is a good place to work.

May 31 served as the perfect example. That morning, a dozen or so wounded veterans from the VA Medical Center in Augusta, Ga., spent the day at the Wild Turkey Center. More than 60 NWTF employees emerged from their offices, cubicles, even the warehouse, lined the building entrance and gave those warriors a well-deserved standing ovation for their service.

Bryce Lawrence, the spawn of Public Relations Director Brent Lawrence, thwacked targets, while his dad manned the grill to feed roughly 240 NWTF employees and families.

My heart swelled with pride, not only for the men passing by, but for my co-workers who value freedom and understand sacrifice. I cried a bit.

Now, I don’t have a lot to compare the NWTF to. It was my first real job out of college. And I’ve stuck with it for nearly 13 years. But I’m pretty sure this is a fine place from which to draw a paycheck.

The one thing most everyone who leaves the NWTF says they miss the most is the people. I have to agree. You won’t find a group who cares more about others.

It’s like family, and I’m not saying that as a cheesy cliché. We don’t always agree, even get along at times, but at the end of the week we stick together to get our “turkey work” done.

Accounting’s Marlys Wooten snapped this pic of Cooper and me racing down the inflatable slide. Great shot of the fun we’re having, but heavens, please ignore my hobbit feet.

NWTF employees lined the entrance of the Wild Turkey Center to welcome a group of Wounded Warriors from the VA Medical Center of Augusta, Ga. What a moving way to begin a workday.

Bakersfield Women in the Outdoors event — the sequel

If you see a man at the event, you can safely bet he’s a volunteer. Like these dudes who manned gigantic grills throughout the weekend. The team barbecued more than 700 chicken quarters for Saturday’s lunch, with steaks for supper that evening. (Do they say supper in California?)

The Bakersfield Chapter has a motto for its Women in the Outdoors event — NO HUSBANDS. NO CHILDREN. NO PETS. The focus of the event is the women who come to participate.

“Make up is optional,” event coordinator Kristie Blaylock said in an interview with the National Wild Turkey Federation a couple years ago.

I’m pretty sure they don’t have to twist a whole lot of arms to get women to comply.

 

I may look tough on the outside, but behind the helmet, head-to-toe camo and super-charged gun, I’m just a sweet little cupcake — looking for paintball blood!

Participants range in age from 14 to even a spry 80-something-year-old this year. And with nearly 60 classes available — from the physically intense (mountain biking, paddle boarding, paintball, skydiving) to the low-key (basic fishing, horseshoes and a variety of crafts) to adventurous (hunting with hawks, field dressing game, RV maneuvering) — there are activities for all interests and ages.

“Our chapter is never afraid to offer a variety of new classes,” said Blaylock, who seems to hold the key to keeping the event fresh each year, which keeps women coming back. And what makes this an award-winning event.

The Bakersfield Women in the Outdoors committee has won numerous awards for this event from the NWTF. In 2012 alone, they scooped up three national awards: winning the best local chapter as well as two that recognized their knack for raising funds for the NWTF’s mission.

I learned how Native Indians lived back in the day — and that the teepee was the first American mobile home.

This event grows every year, like the suburbs of L.A., or perhaps Charlie Sheen’s ego. In 2001, when the chapter held its first event, they hosted 37 women. This year, 527 ladies swarmed a scenic Tejon Ranch valley, popping up tents, parking campers and rolling in cars, some of which had “Women in the Outdoors or bust” written on the windows with shoe polish.

“Planning and executing an event for more than 500 ladies is not for the fainthearted,” said Women in the Outdoors Coordinator Teresa Carroll, who has attended the event in years past. “The Bakersfield Chapter, a virtual army of dedicated men and women, were tasked with preparing and serving meals, leading raffles and games, coordinating and instructing classes — the many small tasks that come together for a big, outstanding event.”

 

Alex Ravenfeather, wild plants/native living skills instructor from the Survival Training School of California, has a fantastic knowledge of wild plant uses and applications. He showed us the elderberry and how it’s a trifecta plant, meaning you can eat it, use it to treat illnesses and make stuff with it.

A more than 30-person committee led more than 170 volunteers to entertain, instruct, feed and wrangle participants in an orderly event that still managed to maintain a laid-back California vibe.

“Although we stay on schedule, our event is relaxed,” said Blaylock. “Everyone just goes with the flow.”

Check out the Bakersfield Women in the Outdoors event on Facebook for info on this year’s event and updates on future ones.

Carrie Landen (left) was in two of my classes during the event. But I’ll forever remember her as the gal who suggested eating at The Lobster at Santa Monica Pier before leaving L.A.

Bakersfield Women in the Outdoors — a blockbuster event

In-N-Out burgers — it’s the food of movie stars and a must-eat while in the Los Angeles area. At least, that’s what People magazine tells me.

A couple weeks ago, I sat nervously in the LAX airport, waiting for Corinna Slaughter, to meet me at baggage claim. Corinna didn’t make me nervous (though her last name sounds intimidating). We’d spent a couple weeks hunting together in South Africa a few months before. You get to know a person fairly well on a trip like that.

Instead, I was wigging out that I could be solely responsible for maiming or killing Corinna in a collision, while attempting to drive in Los Angeles. When it comes to driving, I’m a total country mouse — a country mouse that didn’t want manslaughter (or Corinna-slaughter) on my permanent record or conscious.

However, we made it through the city by the grace of God and the fact that it wasn’t rush hour. It was actually pretty cool to see glimpses of exit signs for Mulholland Drive and Sunset Boulevard. I’m not one to get star struck easily, but I’ve read enough trashy celebrity magazines to know those streets have a place in pop culture.

Groups of women come to this event together, and often wear matching shirts or hats to show their hometown spirit.

But Corinna and I were headed out of the city, north to Lebec, where we were to attend the NWTF Bakersfield Chapter’s Women in the Outdoors event. It’s the largest of its kind, an award winner. And we wanted to see it.

Not before a quick stop at In-N-Out Burger. I’ve read movie stars go there after the Oscars. (Like I said, country mouse.)

This year was the 12th annual event for the Bakersfield Chapter. And every year it’s held at the Tejon Ranch, the largest private contiguous land holding in the United States. Its 270,000 acres is home to a ton of wildlife, including elk, wild pigs, wild turkey and quail. And for a weekend each May, women from all over the Golden State, the country even, call it home for two days of outdoors fun.

My first class was CPR training, taught by Michael McCormick, a certified Red Cross instructor. I, along with this cool Cali chick, was no dummy to resuscitation after the three-hour class.

I tightened the laces on my hiking boots, slathered on sunscreen and prepared to immerse myself in this legendary event, an event too big to capture in a single blog post. So check back tomorrow for more So Cal fun!

Gee, I sound like a tourist…

The 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch in Lebec, Calif., serves many purposes, such as cattle ranching, a place to film movies and commercials, as well as a destination for the largest Women in the Outdoors event in the country.

Get your call (and laughs) on here

This morning I grabbed the wrong pair of pants from the hamper (I wore them dirty anyway), bit into a bran muffin filled with raisins (which I loathe) and apparently forgot to rinse the conditioner out of my hair. I was, as the kids say, a hot mess.

Then I realized it’s Thursday, not Monday, and that fixed everything. Not so much.

But this hilarious music video by my NWTF coworkers put me somewhat back on track.

Sam McDuffie, our museum coordinator, who moonlights as a musician, wrote the song, “Get Your Call On.” The “fly guys” are Joe Mole (video department) and Chris Piltz (special events).

And if you believe the animatronic old man really came to life, hold on to your fairytale dreams. If you don’t, it’s Robert Abernethy, assistant VP of agency programs, getting his geriatric groove on.

When I think about how this video pulled me from my deep hole of self-pity, I said to myself, I MUST SPREAD THE POSITIVENESS OF GETTING YOUR CALL ON.

It deserves to go viral, people. So do your part! Share this piece of awesomeness!

 

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?

 

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.