NWTF’s State Chapters Busy Making More Places to Hunt
By Brian Dowler
Courtesy of National Wild Turkey Federation
For years, the National Wild Turkey Federation has worked to improve access to hunting lands with great success. In an effort to keep the North American hunting tradition accessible to hunters and secure wildlife habitat, the NWTF’s volunteers have spent more than $9.4 million since 1987 to help obtain more than 413,000 acres for hunting.
More Places to Hunt is an NWTF initiative to help provide more hunting land on both public and private property. At both local and national levels, the NWTF and its volunteers have developed partnerships with landowners, and worked with state and federal agencies to help improve hunter access.
However, this new program's objective is to find out specifically what hunters need in regard to access and build upon NWTF chapters' successes and allow the NWTF to better cooperate with partners to accomplish even more.
The NWTF’s chapters and their state and corporate partners have already experienced tremendous success in affecting hunter access in a variety of ways, including recent land acquisitions such as those in Ohio, West Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and many other states; funding conservation easements that provide public access in Montana; holding landowner appreciation days in Wisconsin; and active involvement in legislative issues concerning public land access.
The NWTF's contribution to the projects come from the various State Chapters’ Hunting Heritage Super Funds, which generate dollars through Hunting Heritage Super Fund Banquets, at which chapters and volunteers raise money through ticket sales, silent auctions, live auctions and raffles.
The money generated is combined with donations from corporate sponsors and individuals concerned about wildlife conservation. Partnerships with these corporations, individuals and wildlife agencies result in a three to one match for every dollar a state chapter puts in its Super Fund.
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NWTF: Studying Hunters’ Needs
To help gauge the access needs of hunters, the Federation’s More Places to Hunt coordinators conducted an online survey to find out what hunters want. The results show that most hunters are losing places to spend their time in the field. The findings also show that hunters are willing to spend both their time and money to improve access to quality hunting spots.
"We were really pleased with the participation in the survey, which tells us that the lack of hunting access is a hot-button topic throughout the United States," said Joel Pedersen, NWTF's More Places to Hunt program coordinator. "The folks who responded are primarily NWTF members and are avid hunters."
According to Pedersen, more than 3,100 hunters participated in the survey and nearly 75 percent of survey respondents said they hunt more than 20 days per year. Now, program coordinators are using the findings to formulate a strategy to improve access to quality hunting opportunities throughout the United States.
Survey results show that hunters are willing to increase efforts to make more places to hunt. More than 80 percent said they are willing to financially support efforts to improve access for hunting and 57 percent said they'd be willing to volunteer to help with access-related field projects.
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