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.

 

NWTF Convention: Backstage access

So if you’ve been keepin’ up with me this week, you know most of my days are spent in the big (Delta) ballroom, preparing for the evening shows, rehearsing with speakers, stuff like that.

Have you ever wondered what the production team thinks about the NWTF Convention? These are people from across the country, some from urban areas, not many of them hunters. They’re rolling video of animals getting shot. They’re prepping ammunition company executives for their speeches. They’re capturing the faces of our volunteers as they win awards for fundraising and hosting outreach events.

For a week, they become invested in what we do … but it’s all done behind the scenes, backstage.

So let’s bring them in the spotlight and hear what they think of our biggest event of the year.

Here’s proof that you can be crazy and get the job done. Cheers to a super production crew! Love, Karen

 

Krystie O’Brien of Ohio

Show Director

Has worked the NWTF National Convention for seven years

“I really like the Outreach Program Breakfast. I’m not a hunter, so it’s appealing to see the side of the NWTF that’s about more than hunting. It’s also about education. The first year I worked this show, I found this breakfast to be the most surprising aspect of the NWTF. It just seems to grow each year.”

Brad Poulson of Arizona

Video Director

Has worked the NWTF Convention for three years

“I’m a hunter, so it’s great to see how friendly the people are who come to this event. It shows who hunters really are — conservationists, just good family people.”

Jim Timmerman of Ohio

Camera Director

Has worked the NWTF Convention for seven years

“The Veteran’s Breakfast really gets to me each year. It’s so sentimental. I’ve never served in the military, but there’s always at least one moment that makes me gasp or brings a tear to my eye, especially when it involves World War II or Korean Conflict veterans. Like this year during the pin ceremony, I watched an older vet and Lt. Gen. Buck Bedard embrace in the most sincere way. I could feel the brotherhood. That was really cool.”

Jason Spence of Nashville

Audio

Has worked the NWTF Convention for two years

“I like to look at all the auction items on Friday night. But I always get side glances from the security detail when I do. I guess I look suspicious.”

Rachel Heitzer of Nashville

Production Manager

Has worked the NWTF Convention for four years

“I really like how the production crew and the NWTF work together as a team. Everyone is fun and appreciative of what we do. That means a lot. So many times we work with people who take what we do for granted, that we’re here to make them look good. The NWTF just feels like family and that we all here to support each other. That makes us want to go above and beyond.”

Want to know my favorite part? Becoming a part of the production team for just a bit each year. You are champions to me. Thanks for helping us celebrate hunters in style.