Lyndon Ruediger, Missouri
Home Chapter: Rhine Valley, Hermann, Mo.
NWTF volunteer Lyndon Ruediger has had success in both the woods of Missouri and the African bush.
NWTF: Have you always been interested in outdoor activities?
Lyndon Ruediger: Yes, I grew up on a small farm in Gasconade County, Mo. It was actually more woods and very little farm, but I started out hunting rabbits, because my dad raised beagles. I think I spent more time building brush piles for the rabbits or just running the dogs then I actually spent hunting. I was very fortunate to grow up in one of the areas of the state that had the greatest population of white-tailed deer at the time. The deer population was nothing like it is today, but I think we had the best hunting in the state. I was fortunate to harvest my first deer when I was 11 years old.
NWTF: Outside of hunting and the NWTF, what activities keep you busy?
LR: I live on the farm where I was born, and although I have always enjoyed hunting, I enjoy managing the land and wildlife the most. I suppose that goes back to the brush piles I referred to earlier.
I grew up with horses, and my wife and I have horses now. I enjoy riding the trails on my property and on my friends' and relatives' properties that join ours. Riding the trails offers great opportunities to survey the wildlife, look over habitat improvements and scout for areas of wildlife activity.
NWTF: How long have you been a turkey hunter?
LR: When I grew up, we had no turkeys. I remember my dad telling me about the last turkeys he saw in our area in the late 20s or early 30s. We first started seeing the occasional turkey in our area again in the early 60s, after the Missouri Department of Conservation began the turkey restoration program in the state. Although we started seeing a few more birds in the area by the late 60s or early 70s, I did not feel we had a huntable population yet and did not allow turkey hunting on our land until the mid-70s. I bagged my first gobbler in 1978 and remember being hooked from that time on.
NWTF: How did you first find out about the NWTF and what prompted you to join?
LR: My long time friend and hunting companion Eldo Meyer got involved with the NWTF and, as a result, I became interested in the organization. I met many wonderful folks and thought it would be worth my time to become more involved. When Eldo was serving as president of Missouri's State Board of Directors, he encouraged me to run for a position on the state board. Consequently, I have had the privilege to serve on the board for the past eight years.
NWTF: Tell us a little about your involvement with the Rhine Valley Chapter.
LR: I became one of the chapter's charter members 10 years ago and have been a sponsor member for the past 10 years. Over the years, I have always been quite active on all of our committee projects.
When I realized the critical need for getting young people involved in the outdoors, I started writing articles for Missouri's NWTF newsletter "Show-Me Gobbler" and telling other chapters about the Rhine Valley Chapter's involvement in the JAKES (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics, and Sportsmanship) outreach program. I also began inviting other chapters to our events and working with them to start or improve their JAKES programs.
Being on the state board has given me the opportunity to advance the JAKES program's cause at the state level. Our entire team shares the same level of commitment towards recruiting new hunters to the sport.
NWTF: How did you first get involved with the JAKES program?
LR: The Rhine Valley Chapter hosted their first JAKES Day in 2001 and, as I recall, we had 65 kids there. Even though we really didn't know what we were doing the first time, luck was on our side, because we had a fair amount of community involvement and everything worked out well. From that point on, our Rhine Valley JAKES event continued to grow each year, and as it grew, it became better organized.
The Rhine Valley JAKES event has won national recognition at the NWTF's National Convention and Sport Show for five consecutive years and ultimately earned the Best of the Best award. This past year, the Rhine Valley Chapter hosted two JAKES events with approximately 300 kids and nearly as many adults participating.
NWTF: What do you think contributes to the success of the Rhine Valley chapter's JAKES events?
LR: The reputation the chapter has built for consistently hosting an excellent event has enabled the JAKES events to grow each year. It has made it much easier to have exciting main events, such as a Benelli pro shooters performance or a cowboy action shooter group that traveled halfway across the state to teach a class.
The Rhine Valley Chapter also gives away a lot of nice attendance prizes, which certainly helps bring kids back. But what really keeps bringing them back is that they have a great time and get to do things they otherwise may never get to do.
NWTF: What have your experiences with the JAKES program been like?
LR: Extremely rewarding! The enthusiasm that I have seen at the events, not only from the kids that participate, but also from the adults that are involved -- is fantastic. Everyone clearly enjoys and looks forward to the event.
Our chapter has attracted new volunteers through our JAKES events, and they have a major impact when getting businesses to sponsor our banquet. I believe that 50 percent of our chapter's sponsors are a direct result of the success of our JAKES program.
NWTF: Lyndon, what advice can you give others about hosting successful JAKES events?
LR: In my experience, a number of key things need to occur to have a successful JAKES event. You should:
- Have a good way to spread the word so kids know what the event is about so they will be interested and want to come. Word of mouth is the most effective method of advertising the event. Kids have a lot going on and, unless they know their friends are coming, it can be difficult to pique their interest.
- Have a good plan for keeping participants active and interested all day.
- Keep classes small and well structured so participants have a lot of hands-on activities. I suggest having no more then 10 participants in each class with each class lasting about 45 minutes.
- Have a safety program at the beginning of the day and include a safety component in each class.
- Assign participants to age-appropriate classes. A BB gun class for 16-year-olds is probably not appropriate, nor is a clay birds class appropriate for 8-year-olds.
- A good rule of thumb is to assume you will need one adult for every two participants for all aspects of the event.
- Check with your state's conservation department to find class instructors. Once you get a JAKES program up and rolling, it is amazing how many people will be interested in helping.
NWTF: Why do you continue to support the NWTF?
LR:The NWTF is an excellent organization. I certainly enjoy the people very much. However, if I had to cite one reason, it would be the NWTF's efforts to pass our hunting heritage on to the next generation through the JAKES outreach program.
Passing on our hunting heritage is a critical aspect of protecting our Second Amendment rights. We need to attract as many young hunters to the sport as possible. A new generation of hunters is the real habitat improvement that is crucial to the future well being of the wild turkey and all other wildlife.