Name: John Thompson
Hometown: Mitchell, S.D.
NWTF Chapter Affiliation: James River Gobblers, Mitchell, S.D.
NWTF Member Since: 1989
NWTF: John, what's your favorite turkey hunting memory?
JT: I've been a turkey hunter for 40 years and I've hunted turkeys in several states with a lot of great people. My favorite memory would be this year's South Dakota prairie season. My son Mike and grandson Ethan accompanied me. Ethan isn't old enough to hunt, but Mike and I had double turkey tags. We set up a portable blind and called for about two hours. We called in four longbeards and connected on three of them.
NWTF: Tell us a little about your involvement with the NWTF.
JT: I'm the South Dakota Wheelin' Sportsmen Coordinator. I've been the South Dakota State Chapter Treasurer since 2001 and a member of the South Dakota State Board of Directors since 2000. This year, I was inducted into South Dakota's NWTF Hall of Fame, and I'm working as the Co-Chairman of the 2010 South Dakota State NWTF Convention. I was proud to receive the South Dakota Volunteer of the Year award for 2007 and the Wheelin' Sportsmen Volunteer of the Year award for 2008. I've also been a committee member of my home chapter, the James River Gobblers and was the Banquet Co-Chairman and Chairman for the Double Gobbler Chapter of Pierre, S.D. for six years.
NWTF: Wow, John, what drives you to do so much for the NWTF? Why should people join us?
JT: I enjoy working for the turkeys. We now have turkeys in almost every county in South Dakota.
I also like knowing that the money raised at our Hunting Heritage Banquets will help ensure all types of hunting for our grandchildren and generations to come.
We need people to join us to help support the NWTF's goals. A great percentage (56 percent) returns to the South Dakota State Chapter as Hunting Heritage Super Fund dollars to support our outreach events, scholarships, conservation programs and land purchases. Also, 24 percent of the funds raised goes to support Super Fund projects and protect our hunting traditions nationally. Land is purchased through the South Dakota State Game, Fish and Parks Department. These purchases provide places for hunting and fishing.
NWTF: How did you get involved in the Wheelin' Sportsmen program, and how many years have you been doing it?
JT: I helped coordinate a Wheelin' Sportsmen pheasant hunt for hunters with physical and learning disabilities six years ago and I've continued to be the South Dakota state coordinator for this event.
NWTF: What was it like to win the 2008 Wheelin' Sportsmen Volunteer of the Year award?
JT: I was attending the NWTF's National Convention in Nashville to accept the Wheelin' Sportsmen 2008 Best State Chapter Event for the pheasant hunt. It was an honor to receive this award. After receiving it, I could not figure out why Illana Burkhart [NWTF Wheelin' Sportsmen coordinator] was still talking about me. To my surprise, she was presenting the Volunteer of the Year Award to me! I was totally surprised and honored to accept this award.
NWTF: What's something you'd like people to know who might be thinking about volunteering for a Wheelin' event but haven't done so yet?
JT: Volunteering for a Wheelin' event is very rewarding. The thanks I've received and the smiles and joy I've seen on the faces of the individuals who are participating in the hunt are priceless. I enjoy helping them do something they may not get to do if it weren't for the Wheelin' Sportsmen program.
NWTF: We hear you help get members of our armed forces out in the field — what's that like?
JT: It is a good feeling to see members of our armed forces out in the field during our event. It is one way of thanking them for serving and protecting our great nation.
NWTF: Is there anything else you want to mention?
JT: The South Dakota Wheelin' Sportsmen's Rooster Roundup Pheasant Hunt is an annual event where an average of 16 disabled hunters and 70 volunteers come together to make the hunt successful.
I would like to extend an invitation to anyone who wants to see what this hunt is doing for the Wheelin' Sportsmen to join us at the event this fall. Hopefully they may consider doing something like it in their state.
Twin Creek Farm, near Fedora, S.D., hosts our hunt. The property is farmed with wildlife as one of their top priorities. We are thankful to have such a wonderful place to hold our hunt. All the food for the day is donated by County Fair Foods of Watertown, S.D.
NWTF: What's something a lot of people may not know about you?
JT: Most people who know me probably don't know that my great-grandparents owned a hotel in Yankton, S.D., where General George Custer spent the night on his way to the Battle of the Little Big Horn. I wonder what the turkey hunting was like then?