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.

Who pressed the fast-forward button?

If you kept up with my posts during the NWTF National Convention (or if you’re like some of my coworkers and just now finding time to read through them after the fact), you know how I spent our 36th annual event — backstage. You also know that I’m the fan club president of Ovations, the production company hired by the NWTF to add the bells and whistles to the dinners, calling contests, breakfasts and such by using lights, surround-sound and 30-foot screens.

If you didn’t follow me throughout the convention, well, drop and give me 20, then keep scrolling down. My post for Saturday night introduces you to some of the Ovations team.

One of the crewmembers, Video Director Brad Poulson, planted a camera somewhere in the rafters of the Delta Ballroom and captured the hours of labor it took to turn an empty ballroom into a venue worthy of our annual Thursday night Welcome Party, as well as the rest of the weekend’s events.

Ovations loaded in the first of the production equipment on Tuesday at 8:45 a.m., and had us ready to kick off our convention by 5:45 on Thursday night. Makes me break a sweat just thinking about it.

You’ll see dozens of busy bodies hoisting lights and testing mics over a span of 33 hours, then starting at minute 3:15 footage of the actual Welcome Party, complete with Pledge of Allegiance, four sets of entertainers and a Bass Pro racecar.

Brad edited the footage and smooshed it into a rockin’ video that takes less than 5 minutes to watch.

But don’t blink, you might miss something. This time-lapse video of the Delta Ballroom gives new meaning to busy bodies and shows (yet oversimplifies at the same time) just how much work it takes to make the events at the NWTF National Convention a memorable experience, complete with lights, cameras and a whole lot of action.

2012 NWTF Convention: The last day and beyond

I didn’t post yesterday — the last day of convention — and I had a good reason.

I opened my tired eyes to a little voice that said, “Mommy, wake up. It’s time to go outside.”

By outside, my 3-year-old meant one of the lush atriums of the Gaylord Opryland. My husband had picked him up from the grandparents’ the night before and spent the evening exploring the “outside that’s inside” portions of the hotel.

I pried myself out of bed, relishing in the fact that for the first time in five days I wasn’t in a hurry — and that my family was together once again.

I thought of the speech Larry Potterfield delivered the evening before at the MidwayUSA-sponsored Awards Banquet.

He said (in paraphrase) that out of a population of 300 million people in the United States, only 14 million are hunters. With a life expectancy of about 78, nearly 182,000 hunters go on “to the happy hunting grounds” each year.

Mr. Larry then posed these pointed questions to the audience:

Who’s going to fill our shoes?

Who’s going to fill your shoes?

He said that each of us must do our part for our children and grandchildren to ensure the adults in our society 30, 40 and 50 years from now WANT to conserve wild turkeys and turkey habitat.

Sunday morning, I traded my dress pants for jeans. I slipped on a pair of comfortable shoes and my name badge. But instead of heading to the Delta Ballroom, we took the stairs to the Exhibit Hall, specifically The Roost.

Here’s me doing my part for the future of conservation…

Preparing to plant a suction cup “shotgun shell” on a big gobbler target

 

 

 

 

This was the first fire I enjoyed putting out all week! Learning about prescribed burns from the folks at the USDA Forest Service (or at least dressing the part.)

 

 

 

 

Cooper’s first time shooting an airgun at the Daisy inflatable range

Petting wildlife is only a good idea if they’re skinned and treated with Borax.

Here's to a bright future...