2013 NWTF Convention: In case you missed it (Now…)

Then. Now. Always.

It wasn’t only the theme of this year’s convention; it’s how we view the viability of the NWTF.

We have a strong past, which has proven our organization has what it takes to facilitate success, as evident in the comeback of the wild turkey.

We have a promising future with the Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt initiative.

And now is the time to make sure both have a place in history.

It’s what we do now as an organization that pays tribute to the path paved by those before us. Now is when we lay the bricks for the road ahead of us.

Totally cool to have my photo made with "Gene Simmons." Not creepy at all that I'm old enough to be this impersonator's mom...

Totally cool to have my photo made with “Gene Simmons.” Not creepy at all that I’m old enough to be this impersonator’s mom…

Those bricks aren’t made with good intentions. There’s got to be money in the mix. Money to fund our mission today and tomorrow.

That’s why the Grand National Auction is so important. Just like the thousands of auctions, raffles and fundraisers NWTF volunteers hold throughout the country each year, the Grand National — “the big daddy of ‘em all” — helps foot the bill to carry out our mission and programs. It puts money where are hearts are.

Hunts, a Chevy truck, a triple-barrel shotgun and even an entertainment center from Elvis Presley’s bedroom were up for bid. And the backdrop for the evening was celebrating 40 rockin’ years of the NWTF, complete with celebrity impersonators walking around the room.

For me, the highlight was having my photo taken with “Gene Simmons” of KISS, then using “Madonna” to help sell raffle tickets for a Kentucky elk hunt. Tell me that’s not funny…

SATURDAY MORNING

When is the best time to tell a veteran thank you for his or her service? Now … and anytime you see one.

Their sacrifices helped pave the path that allows us to enjoy hunting, because we live in a country protected by the finest military in the world.

We began the Winchester Veteran’s Breakfast with a photo diary/video of the Outdoor Legends Tours, where members of the hunting community traveled overseas to personally thank active duty military. Many of you may have read accounts from the tour’s frontlines from NWTF CEO George Thornton and NWTF Spokesperson Brenda Valentine on this blog. If you missed it, click on their names for a link to each of their adventures and get caught up. Both offer glimpses into the everyday life of our servicemen and women.

It’s a given that I cry during this breakfast every year. And I shed a few tears listening to NWTF District Field Supervisor Dave Mahlke talk about his son’s enlistment in the Army, how he was injured in the line of duty and made an incredible recovery, as well as how hunting and family played a role in it.

As parent, I can’t fathom watching my son go through so much pain. Dang it, I’m crying just thinking about it. God bless the Mahlke family and all military families.

And if I wasn’t already a hot mess, the super-duper talented brass player Mic Gillette played the haunting notes of “Taps,” as we remembered the fallen, including Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.

The annual breakfast is always so moving to me, not by just watching what’s happening on stage, but thinking about the individual stories of the folks in the crowd.

I looked up from my production book to see a fella, probably not five years younger than me, walk with a slight limp to receive his commemorative veterans pin (an annual tradition at the breakfast). What was going through his head at that moment? Pride? Heartache? Both?

I can’t begin to understand. All I can do is offer my sincere gratitude and respect.

Thank you to Winchester and the NWTF for giving me a venue to do just that.

 

 

 

 

 

2013 NWTF Convention: In case you missed it (Then…)

The theme for this year’s convention was Then. Now. Always. It pretty much summed up all we were celebrating.

THEN: 2013 is the 40th anniversary of the NWTF, so there’s been a lot of talk about “back in the day,” in a cool-and-not-annoying-to-us-young-whipper-snappers kind of way. I’ve enjoyed sifting through old photos and hearing about the beginning of the organization, which has been the collective journey and beliefs of volunteers over the years.

NOW: When’s the right time to celebrate? The here and now, party people! It’s also the right time to raise money for the mission, as well as acknowledge key partners and volunteers who keep the turkey world spinning.

ALWAYS: The answer to, “How long do you want to see the NWTF survive and thrive?” And how are we going to do that? With the new initiative that was officially rolled out during the weekend — Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. (More on that later.)

Every year, the convention kicks off on Thursday night with the annual Welcome Party. Chevrolet sponsored the shindig.

The opening video for this evening is crucial. For me, it sets the tone for the entire convention. So I worked with NWTF Executive Producer John Brown to craft the video you see here.

We had multiple generations of the Kemp Family, of Edgefield, S.C., to tell the story of 40 years of the NWTF. They represent the many families who have grown up and grown with the organization, but the Kemps are one of a select few who have witnessed it all unfold in their hometown, where the NWTF headquarters is based.

Watch it and think about what the NWTF means (or could mean) to your family.

Other Welcome Party highlights:
• Will Primos telling NWTF volunteers that WE GET IT. The hunting industry icon let us know we’ve always been on track when it comes to our mission.
• Seeing NWTF District Field Supervisor Mark Jackson and his daughter, Sarah, walk on stage hand-in-hand to lead the prayer and National Anthem. This Tennessee family is another example of how the NWTF has impacted several generations.
Bass Pro Founder John L. Morris’ generosity. Sure the money is freakin’ awesome, but it also means a lot to have such a formidable partner.
• And, of course, Sawyer Brown proved they’re not just a blast from the past. They’ve still got it when it comes to a high-energy performance.

Check, please! Thanks Bass Pro for your continued support!

Check, please! Thanks Bass Pro for your continued support!

Moving on to Friday’s breakfast sponsored by Federal Premium Ammunition. It’s the annual recognition of remarkable volunteers who have made the NWTF outreach and education programs their calling.

We used the morning to showcase these programs’ valuable place in the NWTF’s overall history, as well as how they play a huge part in carrying out our founder Tom Rogers’ overall vision.

Two standout moments of the breakfast, for me, were:
NWTF Educator of the Year Scott Cronin announcing his students received a grant for their annual trek to the convention (where they learn about careers in the hunting and conservation industries). They, in turn, donated the $600 they’d raised to come to Nashville to Hope for the Warriors on behalf of the NWTF. Thanks, guys!
• Seeing Virginia NWTF volunteer Robin Clark’s smile as he accepted an award on behalf of his chapter. There are some people who brighten your day, even if you only see them across the room. Robin is one of those folks…

I know a missed a million more awesome moments. I hope you’ll share yours with me — and we can live vicariously through each other! So talk to me: What were your favorite convention moments from Thursday night and Friday morning?

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.

 

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 9 (part 2)

As the fun afternoon wore on, a distant sand storm began to cloud the setting sun, which made for an amazingly beautiful sky and dangerous flying conditions. No matter to us, we saw it as an unexpected, but welcome opportunity. We had such a fun afternoon on the range, and our group bonded almost instantly with many of the servicemen and women.

Members of the camp were eager to display one of the flags I’d been carrying on this incredible journey.

With the sand storm delaying our pickup flight we were given bonus time with this Special Forces unit.

The handlers were disciplined in the correct manner of folding and carrying our flag. The flag ceremonies all ended the same way: I was presented with a perfectly folded flag, which meant there was no red showing.

Every American should feel patriotic pride whenever he or she sees the Stars and Stripes, knowing there have been hundreds of thousands throughout history who have given their lives to defend that flag and our freedom.

Old Glory was always shown honor, respect and reverence each time it was displayed.

As I mentioned before, my luggage was lost on the flight from Germany. The few things I did have in my backpack were perhaps a bit atypical — my passport, Kindle, American flags, lip balm, a Mossy Oak cap with the NWTF logo, a light jacket and one of my Sweet Talk turkey calls.

My motto: Might as well make the best of every situation.

Thanks to the sandstorm, we had time to spare in camp. I figured some of the group would enjoy a little turkey calling. Most of them were turkey hunters, but as with any group of hunters, their skill and experience levels ranged widely. They were quick to critic each others calling or sometimes just scowl if the notes were off key.

This bunch of Southern boys enjoyed a little Sweet Talk turkey calling.

I finally parted with the Sweet Talk call in this camp and left it for them to practice on until they are able to come home and actually use their calling skills in the turkey woods.

— Brenda

 

 

Attention outdoor TV junkies!

Big news for Pursuit Channel, home of NWTF programming! Starting TODAY it’s moving to DirecTV channel 604.

It’s a mere four remote clicks away from it’s previous home (608), but it’s a world of difference in bringing in more viewers to learn about the NWTF and our mission.

You see, right now, there’s this itty-bitty thing going on called the Olympics. NBC Sports, channel 603, is now Pursuit Channel’s neighbor, and they’ll provide great coverage of the games. Our hope is folks who may not dig women’s gymnastics will start channel surfing and land on one of our awesome shows.

Two NWTF shows are currently running on Pursuit Channel. “Get in the Game” shows viewers how to make their plot of dirt a haven for wildlife. And the exciting new “NWTF 365,” which debuted this summer, demonstrates how NWTF volunteers have stuff going on all year long — and not just during spring turkey season.

Haven’t had a chance to catch an episode of “NWTF 365” yet? Check out the show trailer below.

Then look for it on DirecTV channel 604 on Tuesdays (5:30 p.m.), Thursdays (1 a.m.) and Sundays (10 p.m.).

Find “Get in the Game” on Wednesdays (9:30 p.m.), Thursdays (5:30 p.m.), Fridays (12:30 a.m.) and Sundays (11:30 p.m.).

All times are EST.

So reset your DVRs and let your fellow hunters know of the big move. And if they don’t have Pursuit Channel, tell them they can catch episodes of “NWTF 365” and “Get in the Game” at www.pursuitchannel.com a week or so after they’ve aired.

The sound of silence

People ask me when my husband and I plan to take our son Cooper, 3, hunting.

I fight the urge to burst out laughing, because it’s neither polite nor constructive.

Instead, the recollection part of my brain takes over, and I think back to 5:30 the evening before, when I pick Cooper up from daycare, or “school” as we like to call it.

Cooper helps Daddy broadcast seed for a food plot. Of course, some kind of stuffed animal is always in tow.

Here’s typically how our 8-minute ride home goes…

Me: What did you do at school today?
Cooper:
I don’t remember. What’s that bird doing over there?
Me:
What bird?
Cooper:
That one flying. I bet it’s going home to his mommy and daddy. Or maybe McDonald’s. Do birds eat French fries?
Me:
Some will, but…
Cooper:
No they don’t. They eat seeds. We need to put seed in our feeders at home. Daddy and I need to. Hey, where’s Daddy? Is he home yet? I need to go potty.
Me:
Can you wait until we get home?
Cooper:
Can I have a treat when I get home? Daddy will give me a treat. I want a peppermint. Can I ride my bike when I get home? Will you ride with me? I need to put on my helmet. Hey, there’s a stop sign. S-T-O-P. That’s stop. You didn’t stop, Mommy. Why are stop signs red?
Me:
Well…
Cooper:
Caleb pushed me down at school today. I fell on my hiney.
Me:
Is your hiney OK?
Cooper:
Ooooooooh, you said hiney! You’re a potty mouth!

You get the drift.

But what you don’t understand is that’s ONLY THE FIRST MINUTE.

I snap out of my glazed-over look and back into the present conversation. I politely answer, “When we feel he can sit still and be quiet long enough to really enjoy it.”

In the meantime, we take him to check trail cameras and food plots. Cooper “hunts” for feathers and acorns along the way. I’ve learned to bring along a small paper bag with a handle to tote out the treasures he finds.

We talk about hunting. And we answer a TON of questions…

Where are all the deer?
Do deer sleep in the woods?
Do they get scared at night?
Why did a turkey lose that feather?
Do turkeys have mommies and daddies?
What’s that noise?
Will that bird pick me up and take me away?
Why do you have a garden in the woods?
Why is it dead?
What’s that smell?
Why do animals poop in the woods instead of the potty?

Again, all in just the first few minutes. Now you understand why Cooper isn’t quite ready to hunt. But we’re holding out that the silence — necessary for hunting and our sanity — will come in the next few years, as will his desire to take part in the activity.

That’s the beauty of Families Afield. Ever heard of it? Basically, it’s an initiative began by the NWTF, National Shooting Sports Foundation and U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance that pushes for parents, not politics to decide an appropriate hunting age for their children.

The rate we’re going, Cooper will be about 47.

 

You never know when winning will hit ya

Back in the spring, I held a giveaway with my new hunting buddy, champion turkey caller Mitchell Johnston. He makes a line of sweet-sounding turkey calls, designed to help hunters put a hurtin’ on gobblers. They are aptly named Dead End Game Calls.

You got to know Mitchell in earlier blog posts, even gleaned a few mouth call care tips from a guy that’s used the same ones for seven years. (Yeah, you read that right.)

Mitchell Johnston is the Santa Claus of turkey calls, giving away seven of his Dead End call creations to my nice blog followers.

In an earlier giveaway, Mitchell sent seven calls to for Keepin’ Up With Karen followers who were also good at following directions. He parted with seven of his handmade creations to the lucky few who were drawn.

Congrats to…

Ken Bailey
Kevin Beck
Brandon Oxford
Dave Quong
Ryen Sawyer
Genie Walker
Greg Wood

You don’t have to do a thing except wait for Mitchell to contact you. Then you have roughly 290 days until kick off for the spring season.

If you’re a fall turkey hunter, let us know if you do any good with your new Dead End Game Call this year. I love pictures…

 

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.