Brenda Valentine’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 3

The first official stop of the Outdoor Legends Tour was the USO Warrior Center at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Our first official stop was the USO Warrior Center at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Sick or injured military personnel are first transported to this hospital for treatment or therapy before coming to the States or being deployed wherever duty calls, whatever the situation may be.

The Warrior Center was clean and a place of support. There seemed to be a swarm of activities for the patients. The food was fresh, tasty and plentiful. Moral was high. And many of the staff are hunters.

This recuperating serviceman couldn’t get enough turkey talk, so I left copies of Turkey Country for the center’s library, as well as DVD copies of the Bass Pro TV show.

I just happened to have some copies of Turkey Country to add to their library and gave a few turkey calling lessons using a drinking straw. We spent much of the day signing pictures and spending time with rehabilitating servicemen.

We were then taken on a tour of the hospital and had an opportunity to visit the patients. As far as hospitals go, this one was very good. The United States built it in the early 1950s and it still looks brand new. Everything was sparkling clean. The staff was professional but super courteous and friendly. Best of all, it didn’t smell like a hospital.

The common theme I noticed from every conversation was a desire to get back with their comrades.

The patients seemed pleased to see and talk with folks from home. The common theme I noticed from every conversation was a desire to get back with their comrades. All regretted they weren’t there to help their unit complete their mission.

— Brenda

Brenda Valentine’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 2

View from the Rhine River

Our group met at dawn for the first time at the Frankfurt airport after all-night flights. The good news was there was a driver in a big red bus there to meet us. The bad news we couldn’t check into our hotel rooms until 2:30 that afternoon.

As much as our bodies were screaming rest, our adventuresome spirits were chomping at the bit to explore. We chartered a boat up the Rhine River and were fascinated by the towering granite castles amongst the miles of well-maintained vineyards, both defying time and progress as the river rolled on.

No German dining experience is complete without a round of “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”

We had lunch in a quaint old villa near the river. Ancient grapevines adorned the canopies and open-air dining. I was enjoying the ambience, including other diners chatting in unknown tongues, when a rocking blast of “Cotton-Eyed Joe” spit out of speakers. The tune was the same, but the words were sung in German. How’s that for a hybrid culture?

It took me a long study of the menu to decide on what to order, mainly because I couldn’t read it. And if I could figure out the words, I wasn’t sure what it was. A “pig knuckle” sounded pretty wholesome, however I didn’t expect it to be the better part of a hog’s leg. Bill and I had enough pork to share with everyone.

Pig knuckles — enough pork to feed an army

I’m digging these German ways so far. Two-stepping music and pig knuckles, what else could a country girl want?

— Brenda

 

Brenda Valentine’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 1

Gazing out the window of Flight 700 headed to Frankfurt, Germany, I watched the last fragment of U.S. soil near Philadelphia slowly fade from sight. I pondered what lay ahead for our small group of pioneers.

Armed Forces Entertainment and Paralyzed Veterans of America contacted me more than a year ago about being a part of a special mission called the Outdoor Legends Tour. A small group of hunting personalities representing the North American hunting community would visit troops inside a war zone to personally thank them for their service and sacrifices.

Brenda Valentine is a woman on a mission: to say thank you on behalf of the National Wild Turkey Federation to the military men and women serving our country.

It was not to be a big production, rather a personal handshaking marathon trip with stops at as many camps as possible. Every detail would have to be carefully orchestrated if it was to be carried out safely and successfully.

The group I was part of included Bill Miller from Minnesota, a pillar of the outdoor media world and an all-around nice guy. He was at the helm North American Hunting Club magazine and TV show for 28 years and has extensive gun and hunting knowledge. While Bill is experienced with all types of hunting, his specialty is waterfowl and upland birds, with a real love for training sporting dogs.

Jim Shockey is a world-renowned big game hunter and award-winning TV host. He is from Canada and a wise choice for this mission since so many Canadian military men and women serve alongside U.S. troops and allies. His trademark black cowboy hat is recognizable to hunters everywhere.

Lt. Col. Lew Deal is a retired Marine Cobra pilot who now works with Armed Forces Entertainment among other military and veterans organizations. We were glad to have someone along to advise us on military protocol. Although Lew was our official tour coordinator he soon became just one of the guys.

Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland, the man behind the many successful Mossy Oak TV productions as well as a recognizable hunting personality, was scheduled to be a part of our group. However, a family health crisis kept him from going. I felt really bad for Cuz, since it’s truly in his heart to support our fighting men and women in the field.

I completed the diverse quartet. Pretty sure the service people I met from the South appreciated hearing a familiar accent with a sincere “thank y’all.”

—   Brenda

Promise I wasn’t lying

For everyone waiting to hear updates from Brenda Valentine on the Outdoor Legends Tour, apparently she’s having a heckuva time finding Internet service on her many stops. But we promise to get you up to speed on her adventures as soon as she’s able to share them with us.

Keepin’ Up With Brenda

Another NWTF representative is eastbound. Our spokesperson Brenda Valentine has headed overseas to personally thank our troops as part of the Outdoor Legends Tour.

She, along with TV personality Jim Shockey and North American Hunting Club’s Bill Miller, are on their way to military bases in Germany and Southwest Asia.

Meet the cast of the second Outdoor Legends Tour of 2012. Safe travels, y’all!

It’s the second tour of the year. If you remember, NWTF CEO George Thornton went on the same type of monumental voyage in March. Miss it? Then click here to get caught up.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version for those in a time crunch…

The NWTF partnered with armed Forces Entertainment and the Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Outdoor Recreation Heritage Fund to participate in the Outdoors Legends Tour. George and Mossy Oak’s Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland worked closely with retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Lew Deal to recruit outdoor industry celebrities to travel overseas to visit and entertain active-duty U.S. military personnel.

The first crew to head over yonder included George, of course, as well as USMC Maj. Gen. Randy West, former Major League Baseball player Ryan Klesko, Bass Pro Shops TV host Jerry Martin, NWTF national spokesman Michael Waddell and outdoor TV personality Jim Zumbo.

Reading George’s blog entries, no doubt the experience was a life-changer for him. And I’m pretty sure the servicemen and women appreciated the gesture.

Now we have Ms. Brenda over there slathering those brave folks with her sweet-as-molasses Southern charm and extending the most sincere gratitude that I know she has for military fighting for our freedoms.

“I am honored, humbled, flattered. I have so many feelings about being the only woman invited to join the Outdoor Legends Tour,” Brenda said. “If I can brighten the day of troops in the field and hospital with stories of hunting, home and the outdoors, it’s mission accomplished.”

For the next week or so, you can keep up with Brenda by clicking on the “Brenda’s Outdoor Legends Tour” tab to the right. Check back as often as you can to see what she’s up to. Or you can subscribe to have the most up-to-date posts sent to your inbox.

I’ll be back on the scene soon enough … if Brenda hasn’t taken over my job by then.

 

Turkey Palooza winners: It could be you!

A quick post to announce the Turkey Palooza online winners. Sure, we gave away 15 gift packages to people who came to the event last Saturday, but we didn’t forget the rest of you who couldn’t make it. So here ya go!

Latanya Green, a recent transplant to South Carolina, was chosen by the “Bloodline TV” crew for taking the best photo with the larger-than-life cutout of Alex Rutledge. Latanya won a range-to-field-to-wall turkey hunting package for posing with her cutie patootie girls.

NWTF Facebook photo contest
Scott Bell from Indiana was randomly drawn from the folks who voted for the winning photo of a Palooza-goer and the cutout of Alex Rutledge. He will receive a “Bloodline TV” prize package from Alex Rutledge in the flesh!

My Facebook contest
Anyone who was my friend on Facebook by 10 p.m. EST on Saturday, June 30, went into a drawing for a prize — a Grand Slam candle set handmade by me. I also threw in an NWTF-logoed Blazer lighter to set them ablaze. The winner is Tim Tipton from Kentucky!

Tim may not be jumping up and down at winning a bunch of candles, but I hear the lighter is good for lighting cigars. Then he can use the candles to cover up the smell. Just a suggestion.

Keepin’ Up With Karen blog follower contest
In yet another attempt to lure in more blog followers, I gave a prize to one of my beloved subscribers. Everyone who jumped on the Keepin’ Up With Karen train by 10 p.m. EST, June 30, had a chance to win signed turkey calls from Michael Waddell and Brenda Valentine. And the calls went to blog follower Dean Underhill of Kentucky.

The Bluegrass State is on fire!!!

I appreciate everyone taking part in our effort to spread the fun of Turkey Palooza.

Check back next week for some Palooza photos. In the meantime, I’m taking a long weekend off, whether I deserve it or not!

Palooza prizes for everyone

Because I’m a woman of my word, I’m giving you the scoop on how to win prizes during the Edgefield Turkey Palooza — even if you can’t be there. We’ll miss you but hope you’ll join in the fun online.

My goal is for everyone to “feel” the power of the Palooza, so here are five ways to grab the most gear…

1. Meet a cardboard cutout of Alex Rutledge!
Breaking news: My friend, Alex Rutledge of Bloodline TV, will be our special guest at the Hunting Heritage Banquet in Edgefield, S.C., this November. To celebrate, the NWTF is running an Alex-themed Facebook photo contest with two ways to win.

Vote on your favorite photo of Alex Rutledge on the NWTF’s official Facebook page starting this Saturday for a chance to win something awesome. But you can’t vote for mine. I was just told I’m disqualified. Can’t win for nuthin’!

Folks attending the Turkey Palooza can stop by our little blue tent near the WKSX trailer and have their picture made with Flat Alex. We want people to channel their inner palooza and get crazy. We’ll post the photos on the NWTF’s Facebook page. The person behind the winning image receives a range-to-field-to-wall turkey hunting prize package that includes turkey targets, decoy, call, gun cleaning kit and fan mounting plaque.

2. Vote for your favorite photo!
While you’re sitting at home, wishing you were at the Turkey Palooza, keep Facebook at the ready and watch the fun unfold on the screen before you. I’m not trying to make you jealous; you could win a prize. Vote for your favorite Alex Rutledge/Palooza Patron photo beginning this Saturday. We’ll pick a random voter to win a prize package from Alex (the flesh and blood Alex, not the cardboard one). The “Bloodline TV” will pick the winning photo.

3. Be my friend!
Where else, well, outside preschool, can you ask someone to be your friend and not feel like a dork? Facebook, of course! Friend me on Facebook before 10 p.m. EST this Saturday, June 30. I promise I’ll accept your request (unless you’re my ex-husband). I’ll draw a winner from all my Facebook friends. The prize? A Grand Slam candle set handmade by yours truly, a super neat NWTF-logoed Blazer lighter, as well as the daily assurance that you’re not the biggest dork in the world.

4. Maybe do nothing at all!
There’s a chance if you’re reading this you already subscribe to Keepin’ Up With Karen. (That’s the blog you’re reading now.) Subscribers have my posts sent directly to their inbox, that’s it. I’m not a serial spammer or anything. I just want someone to listen to me. Everyone who subscribes to Keepin’ Up With Karen by 10 p.m. EST this Saturday has a chance to win. It’s easy. Just look to the right, enter your e-mail address, then (most importantly) verify your subscription through e-mail.

Subscribers will go into a drawing for two turkey calls, one signed by Michael Waddell, the other by Brenda Valentine. I appreciate them both for lending their signatures to the cause of me feeling loved.

5. Just come to the Turkey Palooza, for Pete’s sake!
From 4 to 7 p.m., I’m giving away all kinds of good stuff — NWTF gear, gift certificates to Edgefield area restaurants and stores, calls, decoys, knives — just because I’m nice. All you have to do is stop by that little blue tent I spoke of earlier and follow directions. Easy breezy.

I’ll announce all the winners here on Monday, July 2, so don’t forget to check to see if you won. Of course, if you’re a Keepin’ Up With Karen subscriber you won’t have to lift a finger. I’ll bring the info to you.

Grab your March-April issue and let’s go for a walk

Who’s gotten their March-April issue of Turkey Country yet? Who’s already read their copy? Of course, you all have…

Well, here’s the deal on my side of the desk.

By the time an issue of Turkey Country reaches your mailbox, it’s all but a distant memory to us on the magazine staff. We’re already halfway through producing the next one (May-June in this case), with the articles for the one after that (July-August) in the hopper, waiting for us to put our baddest ninja moves on them.

Spring won't have officially sprung until next week, but the season has arrived in Turkey Country!

So, when I make these why-I-love-the-current-issue-of-Turkey Country posts, it’s really a walk down Memory Lane. And that lane has a fork in it.

The happy prong of the fork, the one paved with candy, with friendly blue jays chirping in the trees, is the path where I am reminded of all the great information that goes in each issue.

That’s not simply a pat on the back of the magazine staff (though they deserve one). It’s more of a GO TEAM NWTF moment, when I realize how much good work we’re doing as an organization.

The other side of Memory Lane is the one where you trip over the gnarly roots of the mistake tree. Some genius once said, ”I do my best proofreading after I hit send.” Same goes for a magazine. Just goes to show we’re hard working, not perfect.

Let’s hop back over to the other path and chat about my favorite stuff in the March-April issue. There are so many articles that make me do a happy dance, I’ve grouped them in sections. Here goes:

STUFF THAT MAKES ME PROUD TO BE AN NWTF MEMBER/STAFFER

Even though it seems as if EVERYONE was talking about the Outdoor Legends Tour the last couple weeks, some folks might be a bit late to the game. In this issue’s On The Horizon (more affectionately known as CEO Notes), George Thornton sets up his trip to visit our troops overseas. Read his notes in the magazine to get the background, then send your cursor on a short trip to the right and click on George’s Outdoor Legends Tour link for seven days of diary entries from his experience.

Because of NWTF members, more than 77,000 people WEREN’T hungry last holiday season. The Turkey Hunters Care program, which started in 2001, has been a wonderful, effective community outreach effort for our chapters who donate frozen turkeys and fixin’s to families in need each year. A big high-five to the 167 chapters that participated in the most recent effort. Read about them in The Caller.

Love the wild turkey range map in the annual Turkey Country SPRING HUNT GUIDE? Wish you had a big honkin’ one to hang in your bedroom under your Jackie Chan poster? Buy one for only $9.99 at www.OutdoorDealHound.com.

Four words: I LOVE BRENDA VALENTINE. Her column, Hen Tracks, just makes me smile every time it pops into my e-mail inbox. The one she wrote for the March-April issue, “The best kind of insurance policy,” articulately explained why your NWTF membership is important, not just to you as an individual, but for the future of hunting. You rock, Ms. Brenda…

Did you read Randy Green’s Wheelin’ & Able column? It’ll be the first of many. The super dynamic volunteer from Illinois is now our Wheelin’ Sportsmen national coordinator. It’s so cool when an active volunteer joins the staff. And Randy is nothing short of exceptional. Y’all be sure to make him feel at home. Flood his e-mail with welcome notes. I’m sure he doesn’t have a lot to do, starting a new job, finding a house, relocating his family and all.

STUFF THAT MAKES ME PROUD TO BE A HUNTER

News Flash: Hunting safer than cheerleading! For real, you are 25 times more likely to get hurt building a pyramid for your home team than toting a gun to the woods in search of critters. GO! FIGHT! WIN! This victory goes to hunters, because you earned it. Read more about it in this issue’s Showcase.

Who doesn’t want to be associated with the cool guys? I know I do. And we just updated www.turkeycountrymagazine.com with interviews from a couple of the coolest guys in turkey calling — Chris Parrish and Mark Prudhomme. Bask in their hunting genius as they give you tips for taking on the woods this spring.

STUFF THAT REINFORCES THAT I JUST MIGHT NOT BE RIGHT IN THE HEAD

Page 52 – Cook Nook: I’m not grossed out by the thoughts of eating a turkey neck. However, my stomach turns just LOOKING at that dollop of mayonnaise. Yep, I’m that turned off by it.

Page 148 – Species Spotlight: Even though it destroys millions of ash trees that are valuable to wildlife, I have to admit the emerald ash borer is cute. But it must die…

Page 150 – Landowner Resources: I’m pretty pumped that purple has made its way into hunting, and not just in some marketing scheme to get more women to buy a product. Purple is the new “No Trespassing” in Illinois. Pretty awesome.

George’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 1

Six months ago retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Lew Deal of the Paralyzed Veterans of America contacted me and asked if men and women in the outdoor, hunting and conservation communities would be interested in visiting our troops in the Persian Gulf. What a question! Of course we would! He put together two teams to undertake the trip.

After all the waiting and planning the opportunity to visit our servicemen and women in the Persian Gulf theatre is finally here.

Our mission is simple: Travel to a military hospital and forward bases to express the gratitude of all Americans to those who defend our freedom and keep harm away from our shores.

I am traveling with retired USMC Maj. Gen. Randy West, former Major League Baseball player Ryan Klesko, Bass Pro Shops TV host Jerry Martin, NWTF national spokesman Michael Waddell and outdoor TV personality Jim Zumbo. We’re all relieved to be boarding our plane because just three days ago, the other half of our group had had their tour delayed because of things heating up in the region. Everyone in that group — TV host Jim Shockey, Mossy Oak’s Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland, North American Hunting Club Executive Director Bill Miller, NWTF national spokeswoman Brenda Valentine, and Deal — was bitterly disappointed to suspend their visit.

We are the guests of the Department of Defense’s Armed Forces Entertainment, whose mission is to provide entertainment to troops around the world. We are told that this tour is the first of its kind in that we will be on the ground, meeting one-on-one with servicemen. We all feel a great sense of responsibility to carry the best wishes of our fellow countrymen to sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines serving overseas.

We met up at Dulles International Airport for a flight to Frankfort, Germany where we will tour Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Landstuhl Air Base. This hospital is the first stop for our severely wounded veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq.

You can learn a lot about folks around the poker table. I’m certain I’m a sitting duck to card sharks Ryan Klesko (a shifty dealer), retired USMC Maj. Gen. Randy West and Jerry Martin. Keep your friends close and your wallet even closer…

As a distraction from the delays of travel, and I suppose from the seriousness and gravity of the world we are about to enter, we have resorted to poker. You can learn a lot about folks around the poker table. It’s obvious to me that Klesko spent way too much time in MLB baseball clubhouses, buses and planes. The games he deals are only understood and won by the dealer. Gen. West and Martin spent a lot of hurry-up-and-wait times in their military careers. They are like patient, quiet sharks in the water. DO NOT let them hold your wallet. I am somewhere between a place holder and a victim, but I’m learning fast. Waddell and Zumbo are feigning inexperience, sitting on the sidelines like predators watching prey. I expect they’ll make a move in the next day or two.

Off to bed after a full 30-hour day. More after we return from Landstuhl.

— George