Kenny Odom, Mississippi
Kenny Odom (left) accepted the Rare Breed Award from Jimmy Russell
Hometown: Waynesboro, Miss.
Home Chapter: Chickasawhay Chapter
Sponsor Level: Senior Sponsor
Family: Married to Lesia Ann for 27 years. Has two daughters, Katie, 23, and Emily, 19.
Notable Fact: Has been an advocate of wildlife and the NWTF for 15 years, earning him the 2008 Wild Turkey Bourbon Rare Breed Award.
How did you get started with the NWTF?
In 1992, I picked up the Turkey Call magazine of a friend who was a member and calling contest contestant. A post card about having a Super Fund banquet dropped out. I picked it up and mailed the card in. At the time, Pete Elkins was the RD for Alabama and Mississippi, and he contacted me about holding a banquet. Pete also asked me to attend a state chapter meeting in Hattiesburg, Miss. I did so and a couple of months later I found myself on the state chapter board. We held our first banquet in the fall and I was hooked! I have served on the state board ever since, as secretary, vice president and also as president. It has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, and I have met so many wonderful people and formed strong friendships with many people I would have never met otherwise.
What was it like to win the 2008 Wild Turkey Rare Breed Award?
In a word, humbled. I had absolutely no clue about being honored. My so-called NWTF friends pulled one over me. The award is given to one person, but to me it honors the efforts of the greatest group of conservation volunteers in the world. I am always in awe of those who are recognized at the National Convention. These men and women labored diligently and faithfully to provide each of us with the opportunity to continue their legacy. To be recognized with these great men and women for my small part in our work is one of the greatest honors of my life. I am deeply appreciative to all those involved in selecting me.
What keeps bringing you back to the NWTF's annual Convention and Sport Show?
Everything that makes it up — the vendors, the call makers' competition calls, and the dinners, speakers and entertainers combine to make the conventions great fun. The Edgefield staff and regional directors put in so much work behind the scenes, and they do a tremendous job to ensure the folks attending the convention have a great time and I admire them for that. The best part is renewing friendships and spending time with fellow volunteers from across the country. I have some friends from NWTF Canada that I look forward to seeing each year.
The fabric of the NWTF is the people and their common love for not just turkey hunting and conservation but also for other people. The fellowship is what makes the NWTF unique.
Why do you continue to support the NWTF?
Because of our mission statement: Dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of the hunting tradition. Just those two objectives alone are enough to keep us busy on a full-time basis. But, there is so much more involving youth and women, educating the public on wildlife issues and the role hunters play in conservation. Hunters have been putting our money where our mouth is longer than anyone else. The NWTF is a recognized leader among conservation groups. Most important to me, we proudly and unabashedly support hunting. While many other groups downplay the role of the hunter, the NWTF proclaims our support of sport hunting. I enjoy working with people who are proud of this aspect of our national heritage.
What NWTF programs do you feel are the most important?
The on-the ground programs for landowners and public lands comes first. Those programs are the core of what we are about. We must always remember that our primary mission is to the resource. Next for me are our outreach and educational programs for youth, women and people with disabilities. The Mississippi Chapter provides teacher education boxes for 80 teachers attending two conservation workshops held each year. I do a presentation for the south Mississippi workshop each summer. It is important to get out our message of conservation and hunting, especially to those who mold the minds of our children. As hunters, we are greatly outnumbered and we need to help those who are not understand what we do and why.
What do you say to people when you're telling them about the NWTF?
I really enjoy sharing our work with other folks. I tell them the NWTF has been a vital part of restoring wild turkeys across the United States, Canada and Mexico. I tell them we are committed to our partnerships with the various state, federal and provincial agencies responsible for wildlife and land management to improve habitat and ensure sustainable populations of wild turkeys. I tell them we work with private and corporate landowners, both large and small, to make sure they remember the wildlife inhabiting their land. After all, they were here before us. I tell them we are an organization that has something for everybody. Last, I tell them the best part is our people, and that they will make new friends and have opportunities for all sorts of adventures. The best recommendations are personal ones and I can tell them from my own experiences as a member, the NWTF is better than any Disney E-ticket ride they will ever take!
Outside of hunting and the NWTF, what activities keep you busy?
I am afraid that may take more space than you allow. I enjoy a number of things to occupy my time. I serve on two additional boards — Trustee and Board President for our local hospital and a local gas district. I am also a hunter education volunteer instructor, which gives me an opportunity to promote hunter safety and the NWTF. I do radio color commentary for our high school football team each fall, and I enjoy attending college games at my alma mater, Mississippi State. I am really involved with my local church and participate in a number of church activities, but my favorite activities center on a small farming operation with my father-in-law. We partner on some cattle and work to balance the land for wildlife and our farm. My most enjoyable time is spent there on the tractor, mending fences, planting food plots and doing all the other things required on a farm. The majority of Americans have lost this tie to the land, and I am so blessed to have this as a part of my life.