Celebrate Thanksgiving with Bob and Tom in Turkey Country

Started this morning on the Bob and Tom Show again, but this time I had a head’s up and wasn’t blindsided by the madness. We chatted a bit about Thanksgiving, turkey hunting, going to my Aunt Nanci’s, stuff like that. No random comments about hotness or turkey necks. It was really subdued compared to the last time — but still fun.

If you missed my first interview with Team Bob and Tom, click here to check out the crazy mess.

If you already heard it, then you know the back story behind this wacky Turkey Country cover. Our staff decided to have a little fun and sent this to the show’s producer. Between us hens, this is as close as Bob or Tom will get to gracing our cover for real — unless they decide to start turkey hunting.

If I’m on their show enough, maybe I can convince them. (Or at least get Kristy Lee to a Women in the Outdoors event. Two gals with guns? Nothing hotter than that!)

Stay tuned for today’s interview. Until then, HAPPY TURKEY DAY! And don’t forget to dig in with a thankful heart…

It’s a TURKEY REVOLUTION!

Thanksgiving is fast approaching. Whoo-hoo!

That means people start calling the National Wild Turkey Federation looking for someone to talk turkey. And sometimes they end up with me.

Earlier this week I chatted with Jim and Trav on The Revolution — one wacky outdoor radio show. Click here to hear it. (Be patient. It may take a minute or so to load. And, yes, it’s a hour-long show, but I’m the first one up.)

They were searching for someone to talk about cooking wild turkey. Their first pick was James Africano, executive chef for Vermejo Park Ranch in New Mexico. Chef James couldn’t do the interview, but remembered me from my hunt out there this spring … and that I’m working on a cookbook for the NWTF.

Basically, I was the consolation prize. But I’m not hurt, because I learned a couple things about myself during my 10-minute on-air stint.

1. I say “you know” WAY too much.
2. If you answer questions with enough authority, people believe you.

I’m not talking about the cooking tips. Those I have down pat. It was the turkey trivia.

I feel bad because some of my answers were, well, bad. And I won the trivia contest with these bad answers. So I’m here to set the record straight.

Turkeys CAN fly 55 miles per hour.

I wasn’t TOTALLY wrong. They fly 35 mph (which is what I said), but they do it in order to get to 55.

Now, I know. And you do too.

 

Happy Halloween from Keepin’ Up With Karen

Happy Halloween from the girls of Keepin’ Up With Karen. Melanie Swearingen came to work dressed as Abby from NCIS, and I was decked out in my Halloween finest. We snapped this symbolic shot in the NWTF server room (which we helped crash a month or so ago). Like Abby, Melanie is much of the brains behind this blog. Me? I’m the one who acts crazy (see crazy hat) and is always distracted (find hidden cell phone). It’s spooky how it all seems to come together.

Today was a fun day at the National Wild Turkey Federation.

A ton of folks came to work dressed in costume, and we had a pumpkin carving contest.

Amid the candy corn, pumpkin guts and laughter, we did some work, too.

I want to wish you all a happy, spooktastic night.

Whether you’re hunting for deer, turkey or candy — be safe out there.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Talkin’ turkey on the Bob & Tom Show

I’m a believer in a Divine Plan, that things happen for a reason.

That usually pertains to major life events, but sometimes it’s evident in everyday stuff.

Take last Thursday, for instance. I walked into my office, and barely before I dropped my keys on the desk (and surely before I’d had a drop of caffeine), I found myself on a live radio show. OK, not just any live radio show — the Bob & Tom Show.

If you don’t know who I’m talking about, click on the Bob & Tom picture below and listen. You’ll catch up quickly, hear my national radio debut and get a good laugh to boot.

Back to that Divine Plan…

Rewind to little over a month ago when we decided to put Jeff Foxworthy on the cover of Turkey Country. We had access to this awesome image and interview, of course we’re gonna use them!

Magazine goes to press, hits mailboxes, yadda, yadda. And — BAM! — an e-mail arrives in the Turkey Country inbox. It’s a request from Dean, a producer for the Bob & Tom Show, asking the editor of the magazine call in ASAP.

Apparently, Foxworthy was on the show earlier that morning. And apparently, one of the show staffers is an NWTF member who brought a copy of the Foxworthy cover to everyone’s attention. One thing led to another and…

I have to say I had a great time. I laughed A LOT, got to talk about the magazine and the NWTF, laughed some more, cringed a bit, then laughed again.

It’s true the NWTF server crashed while the show was airing. Whether or not I’m “hot” is in the eye of the beholder. Or maybe I really do have a face for radio.

Either way, it got folks talking about the NWTF. And we got a new server out of it…score!

It confirmed that what we do today (or perhaps what we did the other day) really makes a difference. I’ve already seen how a simple 10 minutes on the Bob & Tom Show has had an impact. I appreciate the folks who told me I portrayed hunting in a positive way or that it made them proud to be an NWTF member.

Who says Divine Plans can’t include rednecks or even turkey necks?

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

Read the July-August Turkey Country and get more involved (not necessarily in that order)

The NWTF is nothing without its volunteers. And I’m not saying that just to butter their toast. It’s true.

There are NWTF members and there are volunteers. And there’s a difference between the two. Members pay their annual dues, skim through Turkey Country, maybe even drop by a local Hunting Heritage banquet. We like them too.

But it’s volunteers who really move this conservation train forward. They’re the folks who DO something about our mission. They host fundraising banquets, coordinate outreach events and get their fingernails dirty while improving wildlife habitat.

NWTF involvement: Let the magazine be your guide.

They’re the ones who have stopped making excuses as to why they can’t be more involved.

Now, I’m not going to delve into all the personal reasons that keep you from making the transition from member to volunteer. It’s not my business. Nor am I trying to make you feel guilty. (Your conscious is probably doing that for me.)

Instead, allow me to demonstrate how there’s a place in the NWTF for everyone. I’ll show you how even the most obscure people can take the volunteer plunge with the help of my little friend, Turkey Country.

Scenario No. 1: Even though you’re middle-aged, you find it’s easier to communicate with kids than adults. They speak your language, dawg!
The NWTF offers a ton of ways to chill with a younger crowd. JAKES and Xtreme JAKES events are a no-brainer. Check out Mandy Harling’s column on page 60 to find inspiration. Flip back to page 22 to learn about more NWTF-sponsored projects for youngsters, like More Kids in the Woods. Then zip over to page 41 and see what’s happening with Arizona’s JAKES Turkey Hunting Camps. NWTF chapters always need fun adults to help mold young minds on behalf of conservation, so embrace your inner child and join us.

Scenario No. 2: You’re a land baron who wanders aimlessly around your thousands of wooded acres. You’re lost, lonely and looking for ways to draw wildlife to your land.
You, sir or ma’am, are in need of a Wild Turkey Woodland Landowner Field Day. Learn how to get started on page 24. It’s like speed dating for wildlife managers. Landowners are paired with expert biologists, contractors and government plans to help with their individual habitat goals. Then comes the first site visit, which is like a first date. But don’t call it that. It creeps out the biologists.

Scenario No. 3: You haven’t been involved in politics since you ran for student council in middle school. Is there a way to get back into it AND benefit the NWTF mission at the same time?
Many state NWTF chapters have joined “camo coalitions” to make their voices heard to legislators and the like. Read page 26 to learn more. If you’re more of a take action loner, check out Shooting Straight in each Turkey Country, which highlights hunting and wildlife issues, as well as how you can get involved. Let NWTF volunteer Dave Wamer serve as your guide. Find an interview with this pro-active policy follower on page 75. Doing so may not further your political career, but it may gain you points with a wilder constituency.

So, folks, let’s drop kick any excuses for not getting involved in the NWTF. We’re happy to have you as part of the flock, even if you are a bit quirky. Heck, they’ve kept me around going on 13 years now.

 

Happy month-a-versary to us!

It’s the eighth month-a-versary of Keeping Up With Karen! Just wanted to say thanks to all of you who have weathered a couple seasons with me already. Hope it’s been just as fun for you.

This photo was meant to be cute but turned out kind of creepy. But you haven’t seen the worst! Check my Facebook page on June 21 (my birthday) for the most sinister pic of the bunch. It’s too funny NOT to share.

A month-a-versary sounds very middle school, I know. To a young couple in like, a month is like a year and a significant milestone in the fragile relationships of 12 year olds.

It’s kind of the same with a blog.

There are days, weeks even, when blog posts just don’t come naturally. Then there’s my actual job, the whole Turkey Country editor thing, that’s takes priority. Sometimes I feel like I’m failing.

It doesn’t help that I’ve become obsessed with staring at the blog’s analytics — the number of page views, my most popular posts — to try and figure out how I’m doing. I can also see what web sites bring people to my blog, as well as where they go once they’ve said sayonara.

My absolute favorite, however, is reading the search terms folks use that land them on Keeping Up With Karen. It’s like a nerdy version of a reality show. You get to peek into the minds of people, see what’s hot, what people are looking for.

Don’t freak out, it’s not a “Big Brother” thing. (Sorry for the reality show reference.) I can’t see WHO is coming to my site. That would be a bit creepy even for me. So feel free to keep searching with abandon!

To celebrate our blog month-a-versary, I’m going to give you a rundown of some of my favorite search engine terms so far — some are funny, a few are a bit disturbing, but most were on point (at least I think).

The most frequent search terms are for the NWTF convention and SHOT Show. I have to admit I was a little disappointed “Karen Lee’s Awesome Blog” wasn’t No. 1, but I understand these events are much bigger than any individual. I covered both on my blog and can only hope I did a good job for ya.

Then there are the searches for NWTF raffle girls and SHOT Show booth babes (others’ terms, not mine). All I can say is what a disappointment that must’ve been to end up with me. Better luck next time, boys.

Web searches for three other individuals frequently brought people to the blog. I linked to the blog of Michael Waddell, NWTF spokesman and head Bone Collector, when he was on the Outdoor Legends Tour with the NWTF’s CEO. Same goes for couple other names that frequently pop up in my analytics, USMC Maj. Gen. Randy West and former Major League Baseball player Ryan Klesko. Both were on the Legends Tour in the Middle East as well. But that USO-type tour was only half the reason behind the searches. I had people looking for Klesko’s net worth, the Major General’s height and how many children Waddell has — info I do not have.

I get a smattering of visitors looking for people or gear I’ve hunted with and talked about on the blog. That should be a lesson to them all to treat me right … or someone is going to find out! (Just kidding.)

Then there are a few that have been just plain odd — Karen sneeze, NWTF sexy, how to load M&Ms into a cello bag. Makes me wonder about certain minds out there.

By far, the most flattering (and slightly surreal) is that people are actually searching for me. There are like a million Karen Lee’s in the world, but I know these were meant for yours truly: Karen Lee NWTF, Keeping Up With Karen, Karen Lee blog, Karen Lee editor NWTF, Karen Lee editor Turkey Country and variations and spellings thereof.

I’ve even had not one, but two searches for “Karen Lee editor Turkey Country husband.” Sorry to disappoint any bachelors, but he liked it and put a ring on it awhile back. We’re celebrating our 84th month-a-versary this summer.

He is a champion, my friend

Your copy of the May-June issue of Turkey Country has had plenty of time to simmer on the coffee table, bed stand, back of the toilet or wherever you catch a few moments of downtime for yourself to read a few pages.

I’d like to invite you to pull it back out of the stack and look at the cover with me. No big time commitment. Simply look at the pretty picture, and allow me to give you the inside scoop.

Doesn’t Mark Prudhomme have the nicest smile? He looks like a favorite uncle. So kind and friendly. I also imagine him as the family friend who would take you fishing or show up unannounced at one of your Little League ballgames.

But this man is a mega contender in the calling competition realm. He was crowned champion in three divisions of the 2012 Grand National Calling Competitions — Owl Hooting, Team Challenge (with Kerry Terrell) and the Wild Turkey Rare Breed Champion of Champions. That’s the most titles any competitor has ever won in a single year. To top that, he now holds 13 GNCC titles — more than any competitor in GNCC history!

No one gets to be THAT successful by being a nice guy. Or do they?

Absolutely, if you’re Mark Prudhomme.

I called Mark to find out how he thought the Turkey Country cover bearing his friendly face turned out, and I was met by a wave of humility.

Here’s one image from the Mark Prudhomme photo shoot that didn’t make the cut. We were trying to have some fun, mixing two aspects of Mark’s life — winning calling competitions and working as a professional land manager. He was a good sport, allowing the photography team to haul a dozen or so of his trophies to the field and load them in a spreader.

He told me how he’d get Turkey Call magazine when he was a kid, remembering when it was just art on the cover, not photos. He was eager to dig into it. And when he started calling competitively, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on The Caller (when it was a stand alone newspaper) to see his name listed as a winner in a state or regional contest.

“It was a lifelong dream to be on the cover of the NWTF’s magazine,” he said. “So when [the magazine staff] called and said they wanted to put me on it, I couldn’t believe it.”

Mark said he enjoyed being a part of the creative process, watching NWTF Photo Director Matt Lindler and graphic artist Ryan Kirby set up the shots.

“It was amazing to watch their minds work,” Mark said. “When I saw the finished cover, I wasn’t surprised that they’d done a good job. They’re professionals. But I was really amazed at how well it turned out. They must have someone who’s really skilled at Photoshop to make me look that good.”

Mark made the cover of Turkey Country not only because of his wicked awesome calling skills, but that he lives his life as a hunter, land manager and family man with the same commitment it takes to be a winner on the competition stage. Plus, he’s just so darn nice about it.

Read more about Mark on page 128 of the May-June issue. Then click here to check out a behind-the-scenes video on the making of the cover.

Discover for yourself how sometimes nice guys finish first … a lot.

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.

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.