Jeff Cowen, Texas
Home Chapter: Tri-County Longbeards, Temple, Texas
NWTF Member Since: 1998
Luckily for Jeff Cowen, God blessed Texas with a large population of Rio Grande and even Eastern wild turkeys.
NWTF: Jeff, tell us a little about yourself.
Jeff Cowen: I have been married for 27 years to the greatest girl in the world, Diana. I have two sons -- Charles (25) lives in New Port, R.I., and Michael (24) lives in Chicago. I am employed as a computer programmer. My hobbies are doing anything outdoors and, of course, spring turkey hunting.
NWTF: How did you become interested in the outdoors?
JC: My dad and granddad both love hunting and fishing. When I was old enough to tag along, they would take me with them. I was with my dad when I shot my first deer and with my granddad when I shot my first big buck. And yes, it is mounted on the wall in my home. My granddad has since passed away, but I still go hunting with my dad.
NWTF: How did you get started turkey hunting?
JC: I had shot a turkey or two while fall deer hunting when I was 13 years old. When I was in my mid 20s, a friend took me on a spring hunt on his deer lease in Del Rio, Texas. Not being sure how it worked, I bought some 2 ¾-inch No. 6 shot for my Remington Model 1100 shotgun, put on some camouflage and grabbed a box call.
My friend dropped me out in a mesquite flat before daylight and said he would pick me up around 9 a.m. At daylight, I used the box call and thought it sounded silly. Within 10 minutes a turkey walked up, strutting and all puffed up. I shot it and thought, "This is easy." When my friend picked me up at 9 a.m., he went nuts because he had never seen a tom that big -- with inch-long spurs and a 12-inch beard. My friend wanted to swap hunting spots when we went back that evening. Then I shot another one the same size, and he never took me turkey hunting again. But I was hooked and have been chasing turkeys every since.
NWTF: What originally made you want to join the NWTF?
JC: As someone that loved turkey hunting, I wanted to learn more about the sport. I saw an NWTF advertisement in a hunting magazine, did some research and discovered that the NWTF was not just a hunting group, it was a conservation group made up of hunters. I thought, "How great is that? The NWTF has something for everyone with its outreach programs. Sign me up!"
NWTF: Tell us a little bit about your involvement with the NWTF.
JC: The NWTF's Alamo Chapter had a booth at an outdoor hunting show I went to in San Antonio, Texas. I had just joined the NWTF through a magazine advertisement, so I started talking with the chapter members. They explained the chapter system to me and how the NWTF worked. I told them I wished there were a chapter close to where I lived and a few days later an NWTF regional director called me. He said he wanted to meet with me to set a banquet date for an NWTF chapter in my town. When I asked him what chapter he was talking about, he said, "the one you are president of." That was 12 years ago.
NWTF: I understand the Tri-County Longbeards Chapter has one of the best banquets in Texas. What's your secret?
JC: Our chapter is made up of great, hardworking people who believe in the NWTF's mission. We make a good team. Two years ago, an energetic group of ladies joined us, and they do a wonderful job with the Women in the Outdoors outreach program.
So what's our secret? The people here in Bell County, Texas, are some of the best people you will ever meet. They are very supportive and generous.
NWTF: Do you have any tips you can give others about how to host a successful banquet?
JC: A new chapter should direct its energy at getting people in the door. Host a family event where there is something for everyone, and everyone has fun. After a few years, having people come to the event will be automatic. That's when a chapter should focus on getting underwriting. Having your event underwritten will not only get sponsorship for the core package, but it will also cover the rest of the event's expenses. Be sure to recognize the underwriters at the event, and always send thank-you notes. I also believe it helps to have a good auctioneer.
NWTF: Tell us about your most memorable NWTF experience.
JC: There have been many great experiences with the NWTF. I have made a ton of friends and met some really great people. The NWTF has become my second family.
One of my most memorable experiences was when the Tri-County Longbeards committee partnered with Texas Wildlife Association's Texas Youth Hunting Program to guide six kids on their first spring turkey hunt in the Texas Hill Country. What a thrill it was to watch those young people when a bird came strutting in!
Another memorable experience was the first time I took my wife to the NWTF's National Convention and Sport Show in Nashville, Tenn. We took the 10-hour road trip in a rented van with other Texas NWTF members. We had a blast and, once again, made new friends to add to our NWTF family.
NWTF: How easy is it for people to volunteer with the NWTF?
JC: It is very easy. Attend a local banquet and tell a committee member you want to help. I guarantee they will welcome you aboard.
If there is not a chapter in your community, log on to www.nwtf.org, find the NWTF regional director for your area, and give him or her a call. Then hang on for one of the best rides of you life.
NWTF: What are people missing out on by not joining the NWTF? Why should they join?
JC: They are missing out on being a part of a winning team. The NWTF is one of the best wildlife conservation organizations in the world. When you're an NWTF member, you help make a difference for all wildlife and preserve our hunting heritage.
NWTF: Is there anything else you want to mention?
JC: The NWTF's passionate volunteers make the Federation so successful. The funds the volunteers raise through the banquet system and spend on the NWTF's mission make our conservation efforts possible. That sets us apart and makes the NWTF a leader in wildlife conservation and the preservation of our hunting heritage.