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

Then. Now. Always. Forever. Never-ending.

That’s how long we want to keep the NWTF moving and grooving with our mission.

And how will we do that? Through the hard work of our rockin’ awesome volunteers, of course!

NWTF volunteers are super heroes when it comes to sheer passion for the mission. And Saturday night of the NWTF Convention is when we recognize the best of the best at our annual awards banquet (sponsored by MidwayUSA).

Money raised for the mission. Members recruited to the flock. Habitat conserved on behalf of wildlife. New people introduced to the fun of hunting and shooting. Those are the criteria for winning an NWTF award.

It’s awesome to see the humbleness of those recognized. Nearly all of them share credit with their committees, understanding it takes the effort of many to achieve success.

Which brings me to the another important part of Saturday night — the official roll out of the NWTF Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative.

In a nutshell, it’s a focused set of goals the NWTF believes we need to achieve to make a positive impact on wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage. It’s our super plan to face head-on certain challenges such as loss of critical habitat, decreased hunter access and attacks on our hunting heritage, to name a few.

Got five minutes? Watch this video to learn more about the initiative and discover why the Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative is the answer to some of the challenges our country faces.

Now you’re feeling the need to get involved, aren’t you? Click here to learn more about how you can be part of the dynamic team of volunteers who believe it’s crucial for our country to Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.

AHHH…SUNDAY MORNING

I’m going to just come out and say it: I believe the Sunday morning breakfast and worship service (sponsored by Remington) is the most underrated and overlooked meal function at our convention.

Maybe some folks are still coming down from the excitement of a full weekend, so they choose to sleep in. Perhaps others have to get the heck out of Dodge to make it back home before the workweek begins.

I, however, believe it to be two of the most inspiring and important hours of the convention — and I’m pretty sure the couple hundred of our volunteers who attend the breakfast agree.

It’s fun and joyful: the comedy of Dennis Swanberg and singing by Terry Thompson made sure of that.

But it’s more than a feel-good morning. It also offers serenity and perspective. I believe that what we do “for the least of these” — whether it’s a child, a wild animal, a disabled veteran or just reaching out to anyone who may need a helping hand — we’re doing it in the name of God.

I like knowing I’m investing in the future of our country when I volunteer on behalf of the NWTF. But when it comes to doing for others, belonging to a greater cause, it’s the always … forever … never-ending love of my Savior that reassures me I’m on the right track.

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?

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…

 

It’s a Turkey Palooza!

The NWTF is getting a little bit of an early start on July 4 fun with its first-ever Turkey Palooza this weekend. The NWTF campus will be buzzing with activity on Saturday — games, food, live music, auctions, culminating in a big honkin’ fireworks show. All the ingredients for an Independence Day-type festival, but we’re getting our turkey on instead!

So what’s a palooza anyway? I had to look it up myself.

Apparently, “palooza” is a term that came to be after I graduated high school in 1995. It’s nowhere to be found in the dictionary I received as a graduation gift — the days before you could Google everything.

I keep that dictionary in my desk drawer, because I still believe Mr. Webster over what I find online.

Palooza was not where it should’ve been in the “P-Q-R” section, after palooka (an inexperienced boxer), so I defaulted to Wikitonary.com. It says a palooza is an exaggerated event. That tells me absolutely nothing.

So I’m going to say a palooza is a big celebration, which is what I think is the intention of the events on Saturday. Add “turkey” before it, and it becomes a big NWTF party.

The Turkey Palooza began as a thank you to the Edgefield, S.C., community. The NWTF has called Edgefield home since 1973, employing folks from all over the Central Savannah River Area for nearly four decades. We love it here and want our neighbors to know it.

We also want them to get to know who we are and what we do for North America’s wildlife and hunting traditions. I’m not joking when I tell the story of a woman working in the McDonald’s drive-through no more than a mile or so up the road from NWTF headquarters. She actually asked me where we keep all the turkeys. Sigh…

Well, Saturday will be a chance for her to get the full NWTF scoop. Turkey Palooza participants can tour our Winchester Museum for free, typically a perk reserved for NWTF members.

Another bonus for NWTF members is an exclusive VIP area with its own games and made-in-the-shade seating area.

But anyone and everyone can enjoy the fun.

If you live within driving distance of Edgefield, you should totally join us. I’ll be there broadcasting live with WKSX (92.7 FM out of Johnston), giving away prizes, jawing about the day’s activities and trying to convince the show host to let me play some Def Leppard.

If you don’t live nearby, you can still get your palooza on too. Stay in touch here at Keepin’ Up With Karen and on my Facebook page for ways you can win prizes — even if you live in Idaho!

Oh, and click on the video above to get the skinny on what’s happening at the Turkey Palooza. (And make note of that sweet voice convincing you to stop by. It’s me!)

Wandering the Halls: Sam McDuffie, NWTF’s Winchester Museum Coordinator

Sam McDuffie is cool hipster meets Boy Scout. Musician meets museum coordinator. A creative mind who enjoys science. Basically, Sam is a walking, talking dichotomy.

Sam McDuffie wants to chunk tomatoes at Lady Gaga. He’s grown a beard since this photo was taken, so he might get away with it. Wait, I just blew his disguise…

I love folks like that. They keep you guessing.

By day, Sam molds young minds as they tour the Winchester Museum at NWTF headquarters. By night, he’s singer/songwriter/guitar god for the folk rock/blues group, Banned in Two States.

He recently meshed his two lives by writing and performing, “Get Your Call On,” a song/rap about wild turkeys. Talk about dichotomy…

The song is clever, but the music video will make you pee your pants. I’ve posted it on Keeping Up With Karen before, but it warrants another look, especially after you get to know the mastermind behind it.

Drum roll, please … SAM McDUFFIE! Then stick around for another showing of “Get Your Call On!”

OFFICIAL TITLE: museum coordinator/educator/Boy Scouts of America project manager

JOB DESCRIPTION: I educate the young minds about conservation, which includes the wild turkey, the greatest conservation comeback story. Occasionally, I get to add a new museum exhibit or two in the Winchester Museum.

NWTF EMPLOYEE SINCE: August 2009

WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU CAME TO WORK FOR THE NWTF? I was an interpretive ranger for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ state parks division. I was the infamous “Ranger Sam.”

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB? Being a positive role model for the students I educate and teaching them that science is cool.

WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE PART? The end of each fiscal year — too many reports that have to be turned in.

FINISH THIS SENTENCE: I USUALLY SPEND MY LUNCH BREAK…with my wife at one of the five restaurants in Edgefield, S.C.

IF YOU WERE A WILD ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD YOU BE? A barred owl, because it would be cool to fly and live at the top of the food chain. Also, I’ve always been a bit of a “night owl.”

IF YOU COULD HAVE FRONT ROW TICKETS TO ANY MUSICAL ARTIST/BAND EVER, WHO WOULD IT BE? Lady Gaga, so I can throw tomatoes at her for ruining music. Seriously, it would be The Black Keys. Their music resonates with me. They’re my favorite band (right now).

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.