Hometown: Springfield, Ill.
Home chapter: Flatlanders Chapter
Family: Married to Neelu for three years, with whom he has a 19-month-old son, Sean Michael. Neelu produces the NWTF Illinois newsletter and is involved with Turkey Hunters Care.
Notable Fact: Has served in numerous NWTF capacities at both the local and state levels, and received the 2008 Roger M. Latham Award during the NWTF's annual Convention and Sport Show in Atlanta, Ga.
What did receiving the Roger M. Latham Award mean to you?
I was surprised and deeply honored to receive such a prestigious award. To be considered among all the nominees across the nation, and included with all the past winners and what they have contributed to the NWTF, words can't describe the emotion I felt. I think when someone gives their time to something they truly believe in, they do it without any expectations of recognition of their efforts, so when my name was called, it was a humbling experience. Considering the legacy of Roger Latham as a conservationist, writer, call maker and outdoorsman, it was an honor to receive the award bearing his name, and it gave me an appreciation of the people I work with.
How did you get started with the NWTF?
My brother Mark was the one who got me started with the NWTF. He was a member hitting the calling circuit and had attended several NWTF National Conventions. I heard his stories of what a good time he had attending the conventions and how the NWTF was involved in the trap-and-transfer program for turkeys. He felt that soon we would have turkeys in our own back yards and wouldn't have to travel as far to hunt. He, among others, started our local chapter, the Flatlanders Chapter, in Waverly, Ill., in 1989 because they believed in the mission of the NWTF. I became a member shortly after. Mark has served on the Illinois State Board of Directors and as the state calling contest coordinator. He also got me involved on the state level where I have the privilege of serving as a board member.
Why is habitat conservation so important to you?
I think the NWTF and other conservation organizations have done a good job of making hunters aware that the future of their sport and the health of the game they pursue lays in habitat conservation. I see more and more hunters each year being cognizant of that fact, and they are putting more effort in supporting organizations such as the NWTF that promotes habitat conservation by attending banquets, and purchasing seed for food plots, nesting cover and mast-producing trees. For me, it started in college when I attended Southern Illinois University majoring in zoology. We had to develop management plans and I started realizing the importance of habitat conservation. I currently own 40 acres and lease another 100 acres, and try to provide a diverse habitat for wildlife with a focus on deer and turkey. Having such a small amount of acreage to manage, it is important to offer suitable habitat that is attractive to wildlife. As a conservationist and not just a hunter, I believe it's very important to respect the game you pursue and assist nature in the health and quality of wildlife by being a steward to the land that we share with all living things.
What is the most important aspect of your work with the NWTF?
I would have to say getting people involved, especially kids, and spreading the message of the NWTF. Working with kids during JAKES events is very rewarding. Giving them an opportunity to get hands-on experience with outdoor activities hopefully gets them interested in hunting and conservation. It has been said many times that the youth are our future, and we must do all we can to ensure they carry on the legacy of the hunting and conservation. I love to take a kid hunting. It's so rewarding to see them hear their first gobble or harvest their first turkey.
Why do you support the NWTF?
The NWTF an organization in which I truly believe. I believe that habitat conservation is the key to the health and quality of wildlife, and nobody promotes it better than the NWTF. From the mission statement to its outreach programs, the NWTF, in my opinion, is the leader of conservation organizations. Since my involvement in NWTF began some 20 years ago, I have met many outstanding individuals that share my passion. The NWTF circle is like a family, and I have never been involved in any other organization, group or club that I can say that about. Since turkey hunting is my passion, I support the NWTF for its contributions to conservation of the wild turkey and preserving the hunting tradition.
Do you have a favorite NWTF memory?
Two actually, my first National Convention, and my first leadership conference. I attended the National Convention in Nashville in 2000. Since I had never been to one, I went to everything I could. I never imagined the quality of the events I attended. I was blown away with the whole experience. With no disrespect to other host cities, nobody does it better than Nashville from my experience. That same year I also attended the leadership conference. The fellowship of that experience was beyond belief. I recall coming back from the conference with renewed motivation to send the NWTF message and to improve on the quality of our local banquet.
Why should somebody join the NWTF?
I personally believe that everyone who hunts turkeys should be a member of the NWTF. I started turkey hunting in 1982, and if you even heard a turkey back then, you were lucky. The efforts of the NWTF in the comeback of the wild turkey in partnership with wildlife departments should be motivation enough for everyone to join the NWTF, not to mention the camaraderie and fellowship the NWTF brings to its support of the hunting tradition.
How do you tell others about the NWTF?
I spread the message by word of mouth, and through newsletters and press releases. When promoting our state and local Hunting Heritage events, selling tickets, getting sponsors and donors, I think it is important to get the message out on what the NWTF has done and continues to do. I describe the outreach programs, conservation efforts, Hunting Heritage Super Fund dollars spent and scholarships offered to get people involved. I describe how the NWTF gets their message out. That is usually all that is needed to get someone's support of the NWTF. We always issue a press release in the local newspaper when our local chapter provides a scholarship, donation or community service.
Besides hunting and the NWTF, what hobbies do you have?
Spending quality time with family and friends is high on the list. I also play softball and basketball to keep fit for hunting excursions. Owning my own land with a cabin also keeps me pretty busy. Habitat conservation is a full-time job, but I enjoy seeing the fruits of my labor. Seeing deer and turkey using food plots that I planted or seeing turkeys using my land for nesting and brooding cover is very rewarding.