Jump on the train or watch the train wreck…you’re invited

Sorry I didn’t post last week. Did ya miss me?

Time just got away from me. It seems as if all the parts of my job right now keep stacking up on this imaginary shelf above my head, and it all came crashing down on me at the first of the year — the March-April edition of Turkey Country (the biggest issue of the year), filling my dance card for SHOT Show (the biggest industry trade show of the year) and preparing for the NWTF National Convention (our biggest event of the year).

None of it’s a surprise. Each one happens annually. Just the immediacy of it all at the turn of a new year seems to catch me off guard every time.

As I sit at my desk, staring at various piles of paper, listening to my inbox ding with new items for my multiple to-do lists, I console myself that it will all be over with before I know it. Then I freak out again, because, well, that means it will all be over with before I know it. I just hope I’ll be ready.

It’s that same feeling you get at the beginning of a school year when a teacher hands you a syllabus. You read the long, detailed list in front of you and wonder how you’ll ever get all of it done (and still, like, have time for a life). But the reality is you will, taking it one task, one day at a time.

The next few weeks are gonna be crazy, but I promise not to forget you. I hope you won’t forget to keep up with me, because it’s going to be action packed, including trips to Las Vegas for SHOT, Nashville for NWTF Convention, new outdoor product reveals, giveaways, a possible meltdown by me. You don’t want to miss it.

Get the full experience by following me on Twitter (@Karen_Lee_NWTF) or friending me on Facebook. Search for Karen Lee and look for the same picture that’s smiling at you at the top of this page.

You can even ask the Internet spirits to magically let you know I’ve made a post by subscribing to this blog. It’s super easy. Just move your head a quarter-inch to the right. OK, now up a smidge. Type your email address into the little box and hit the subscribe button. You’ll get a message in you inbox to verify you want to take this earth-shattering step, but you’ll just coolly say, “It’s OK. I’m ready.”

And if you’re a real rock star, you’ll do all three.

Alright, people, we’re in this together. Buckle your chinstraps. ‘Cause here we go!

7 reasons why I’m psyched about the upcoming Turkey Country issue

The next issue of Turkey Country should be in your mailbox soon, no doubt bundled with a tree’s worth of Christmas cards and catalogs from companies trying to squeeze just one more dime out of last-minute shoppers.

Here are a few of the gotta-see and must-read pages of the January-February 2012 issue, according to me at least.

1. THE COVER — The frosted tips of the turkey’s body feathers and beard will send shivers up your spine, but don’t overlook his wings worn flat from dragging and strutting. If that doesn’t get you warmed up for spring, then you must not have a bone to pick with a boss tom somewhere. Thanks, Guy Tillett, for snapping this shot — and for making me pine for turkey season even more.

What media outlet includes hand cuffs, video cameras and a lot of grass? The latest issue of Turkey Country, of course! And YOU thought I was talking about an episode of "Cops"...

2. PAGE 15 — The often-overlooked cyber sister to Turkey Country (www.turkeycountrymagazine.com) is full of exclusive features, quick access to many of the links in the magazine and an easy entrance for members to participate in Answer the Call, Snapshots and Ask Dr. Tom. We hope to pique your curiosity with this new page of teasers. This installment of the online version has stories on using turkey feathers in traditional archery to a roundup of outdoors-related apps for a smart phone, and a little coyote hunting and outdoor humor in between.

3. PAGE 21 — I simply love this photo by Senior Editor PJ Perea. It’s incredibly eye-catching and demonstrates there’s so much beauty in the smallest details of nature.

4. NWTF TRACK STARS — We feature Kevin Howard of Howard Communications, who was 2011’s NWTF Communicator of the Year.  I’ve worked with Kevin and his team and found all the nice stuff said about them in the article to be true. What I didn’t know, however, is that Kevin starts every workday with group prayer. That’s a leader who has his priorities in order.

5. 25 WAYS TO CURE CABIN FEVER — There’s a ton of fun stuff to do outside in winter, but it’s cool (check out the pun) to see so many of them gathered in a list. Makes me wish I could teleport myself to a snowy part of the country for a day of fun, then come home to sunny South Carolina and not have to worry about putting chains on my tires.

6. TURKEY CALLS — J.J. Reich tells us about a couple companies that make turkey calls out of submerged hardwoods like cypress. There’s only so much of this old, waterlogged wood around, and apparently it makes one heckuva turkey call. I just think they’re neat because it’s pieces of natural history, recycled.

7. POACHER-PROOF YOUR PROPERTY — When a poacher’s creeping in from your neighbor’s hood … who ya gonna call? Game wardens! (Bravo, if you just sang that to the tune of Ghostbusters.) In all seriousness, I really enjoyed this interview with Game Warden Roger Tate of Arkansas. He was honored at our national convention last year for putting the smack down on ne’er-do-wells who won’t play by the same rules as the rest of us. (He’s also apparently a nice guy who has a heart for outreach.) Tate gives landowners and hunt lease holders tips for keeping these bad apples from hugging your property line and what to do if you catch one in the act.

Hope you find a couple of silent nights to enjoy these pages and the rest of the magazine over the holidays.

Must-see Karen Lee TV

Here’s a little something for those of you who’ve been keeping up with me the past few weeks, wondering if I ever turkey hunt or just yammer about my family, feelings and Christmas trees.

I offer you proof that I can sling a 3½-inch shotshell at a living, breathing bird. Catch me on Outdoor Channel this week. It’s playing reruns of the episode of “Benelli On Assignment” where I take down a turkey in Texas with a Super Vinci.

It airs on the 16th at 9 a.m. (which goes nicely with your second cup of coffee for the day) and a pre-lunch showing on the 17th at 11:30 a.m.

The production company did an excellent job in putting the show together, but I have to say I look like I have a big head — literally, not figuratively. My noggin easily looks twice its normal size.

Now if that doesn’t get your TiVo or DVR going, I don’t know what will.

Anyway, I hope you’ll tune in. And then check out the companion piece I wrote on the hunt in the January-February 2012 issue of Turkey Country. It’s cleverly titled “Hunting for a TV Show,” where I give my inside view on what it takes to make a hunting show happen, including the self-inflicted pressure to shoot something and not look stupid.

I need a little Christmas (tree)

I jumped into Christmas with both feet this weekend.

I wrapped a few presents. Made yet another gift order from Amazon.com. Slurped down a mug of gingerbread hot chocolate from IHOP (it’ll change your life). Went to a local Christmas parade with my two main guys. Then topped off Sunday night with a road trip to Lights of the South in Grovetown, Ga., which boasts more than 4 million lights over 100 acres — and we walked them ALL.

I’m so giddy with holiday cheer I’ve even cheated on my tried-and-true XM stations (80s on 8 and Hair Nation) and dabbled in a little Christmas music.

I finally committed to decorating my office Christmas tree today. It’s a whopping 3-footer, complete with some of the hunting- and fishing-themed ornaments my mom has bought me over the years.

Oh, Christmas tree, office Christmas tree. You keep me from going holiday crazy…

My favorites are the little s’mores guys. They look like marshmallow snowmen, each sitting atop a graham cracker. One is roasting a weenie over a pinecone campfire; another is dressed in hunter orange and pointing his loaded cinnamon stick in a safe direction.

That little tree will serve as a beacon of cheesy, cutesy cheer all month long.

December is a juggling act for me, like I’m sure it is for all of you. It’s the beginning of production for the March-April issue of Turkey Country — our biggest issue of the year. It’s when my dance card for SHOT Show begins to fill. And it’s the calm before the storm that is the NWTF’s annual national convention (which is Feb. 9 to 12 at Nashville’s Gaylord Resort and Convention Center, by the way. Register online at www.nwtf.org/special_events/convention.html).

Mix all that with Christmas parties, shopping, decorating, overeating and plop it on top of daily life, and I’m one skin breakout away from throwing a tinsel-flyin’ hissy fit.

But there’s something about a Christmas tree that brings end-of-the-year, hectic holiday hoopla into balance.

Perhaps because a Christmas tree is often a reflection of who we are and what’s important to us. Each ornament tells our story — our hobbies, our family, favorite colors and interests, if we’re coordinated or like a little randomness (like me).

When you step away and look at the entire tree, all those tiny elements blur together to make a single, beautiful sight.

Take time to soak in your Christmas tree this December. Grab a cup of cocoa, put your arm around a loved one and look at everything you are, everything you’ve accomplished and what you stand for.

P. S. — I would love to see what your tree looks like and what it says about you. Send photos to me via email, or let’s become friends on Facebook and share them there. Search for Karen Lee National Wild Turkey Federation and you’ll find me and my alter ego. Pick Karen Lee for Keepin’ Up With Karen, otherwise you’ll find my grossly-neglected personal Facebook account.

Raising a good magazine

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I’ve always thought completing an issue of Turkey Country is somewhat like childbirth — a comparison my male coworkers find kind of gross. But it’s true. You create it from a series of concepts that develop into blocks of words and pictures. Those are arranged into pages that are pleasing to the eye, which are glued together at the printer.

That’s oversimplifying the entire process — for publishing a magazine and having a baby — but you get the gist: A heckuva lot goes into making that roughly 144-page book that the postal carrier flops into your mailbox.

By the time I get my own copy of the magazine, I’m super proud of the result, but I’m hard pressed to pick it up and read it. I mean I’ve read it, like, five times already. Plus, I’m terrified I’ll find a mistake.

I had to train my mother to not point out typos to me after the fact. She thought she was helping, but at some point you just have to cut your losses. And those losses are much easier to handle if you don’t know about them.

I really love what I do. I get to use the creative and the technical parts of my brain each day. And I hope that shows in the end product — and that you find enjoyment in reading it, maybe even learn something.

I’d love to hear what you think about what you read and see in Turkey Country. And even though each issue is like a baby to me, you can tell me if you think it’s ugly. (But I wouldn’t recommend you saying that to a mother about her flesh and blood.)

In all seriousness, I want to hear your tips for helping me raise Turkey Country right. What do you want to see more or less of? What made you smile? What made you think?

Let me know.