Hometown: Elizabethtown, Ky.
Hometown Chapter: Central Kentucky Chapter
NWTF Member Since: 1993
NWTF Involvement: Kentucky State Chapter president and district director. Served with the Central Kentucky Chapter as president, vice president treasurer, and banquet chairman.
NWTF: How did you become a turkey hunter?
Ken Dozer: I didn't actually get into hunting until I was an adult. I was 21 years old and married the first time I actually went hunting. I have been a lifelong fisherman and have always had a great love of the outdoors, but I grew up in a subdivision in central Kentucky with parents that didn't hunt. I just hadn't been exposed to hunting as a youth. As a child, my family had a camper and a boat at one of the state lakes, so we spent many weekends a year camping at the lake and fishing and skiing. My barber, Andy Greenwell, actually was the person responsible for getting me involved in hunting. Every time I would go in for a haircut we would always talk about fishing and Andy would always make a comment like, "When are you going to put that fishing pole up and try hunting?" You don't know what you are missing." My wife's family had a farm in Central Kentucky, so I had access to land and decided to give hunting a try, and from the first moment afield I was hooked and have been ever since.
NWTF: What are your favorite turkey hunting memories?
KD: I have been fortunate enough to turkey hunt all over the United States, but my favorite memory is from my home state of Kentucky. I will never forget when my son Ryan harvested his first turkey at the age of 5. Ryan had been shooting BB guns since before he turned 2, and I started taking him to the woods with me when he was only 3 years old. He would be dressed in camouflage from head to toe and we would take a backpack filled with Gatorade and M&M's and head to the woods. Most of those "hunts" lasted no longer than an hour because once the M&M's ran out he was pretty much ready to go. However, during those early days afield he developed a love of the outdoors that we continue to share to this day.
Sometime around the time he was 4 or 5 years old he thought he was ready to start carrying a gun when we went hunting. I bought him a youth 20 gauge single shot and cut the stock down and outfitted it with a turkey choke, and when spring turkey season opened I took him with me one afternoon. As luck would have it, we struck a group of four jakes about 350 to 400 yards away loafing in the shade of some large maple trees on the opposite end of a large soybean field. There was very little cover so we opted to just sit down and try and call them in. There were just two trees in the field so we sat back against the big walnut tree and I sat Ryan down between my knees and we got ready. He got my old two sided box call out and started banging on it and made some of the worst "turkey" sounds you've ever heard. Well, those 4 jakes must have thought that squawking was beautiful because they came in running and gobbling to the call. All four of them showed up at the same time and popped over the little rise in front of us at about 20 yards. I was scared to death that if I let him pull the trigger that we would have four dead birds at our feet. They finally separated just enough so he shot that little 20 gauge and one of them crumpled. The high five's, hugs and cell phone call to his mother are memories that I will carry with me forever. That jake was just about as big as he was. He is 16 now and has become quite a proficient hunter. He has been my hunting partner ever since. As a father and an outdoorsman, there is nothing that comes close to being able to share the outdoors with my son.
NWTF: What got you involved with the NWTF?
KD: Pat Cardin is "what" got me involved with the NWTF. Pat was still a volunteer at that time and had not come on staff with the NWTF yet. He invited me to attend a banquet committee meeting with him for the Central Kentucky Chapter. I agreed to go to the meeting and actually ended up joining the committee that night and have been involved ever since.
NWTF: What are some of the things your chapter has been doing?
KD: My local chapter has really put a concerted effort into offering outdoor experiences to kids. We've got a dedicated group of committee members who work tirelessly to put on first-class events such as the one we held in June of this year where we had over 100 kids participate in our JAKES Day fishing event. Each of the kids received a neon yellow shirt and the chapter provided a great lunch of hotdogs, hamburgers and fresh catfish that the kids had been catching all morning. We also had the JAKES Take Aim trailer at the event, which was a huge hit with the kids as well. My local chapter is the oldest chapter in the state of Kentucky and we have several of our committee members who have been around for 20-plus years now and are still as passionate about paying it forward as they were in 1988 when the chapter was chartered. Many of us remember when we didn't have the turkey population that we are so blessed with now and we have all worked together to make sure that tomorrow's hunters will have opportunities to chase gobblers for years to come. Each year we utilize the education box that the NWTF puts together and make a presentation to 200-250 kindergarteners and first-graders right before Thanksgiving. We also have hosted turkey hunts, squirrel hunts and fishing events for the kids, and volunteer at the NASP convention held in Louisville each year. We also work hand in hand with our local 4H shooting sports team in Nelson County.
NWTF: What advice would you give to someone who is new to hunting?
KD: I will share the best advice that I was ever given from a much more experienced hunter than myself. He told me when it comes to hunting you should call half as much as you think you need to and sit in the same place for twice as long as you think you should. That has turned out to be pretty good advice and I think it is something that would help a novice hunter be more successful. I know it has helped me over the years.
NWTF: Why do you think it is important for people to support the NWTF?
KD: For me it is very simple, the NWTF was an integral part of the turkey restocking efforts in my home state. Were it not for those efforts, the hunting memory that I shared of my son harvesting his first turkey would not likely be possible. I truly give credit to the NWTF for the hundreds of hours that I have been able to share with my son in the woods and on the water. However the NWTF has done so much more than that.
The outreach programs that the NWTF provides to so many that might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience all that the great outdoors has to offer is more than enough reason for someone to get involved. I have seen first-hand what the Wheelin' Sportsmen, Women in the Outdoors, and JAKES events mean to the participants. I received a letter last year from a disabled veteran that said that the Wheelin' Sportsmen Wounded Warrior Hunt that is put on by the Shelley Nickell chapter "saved his life." The soldier was a war-wounded veteran that had lost his limbs in Iraq as a result of an IED attack. He had been a lifelong outdoorsman, but after going through the ordeal of the roadside bomb and his subsequent medical recovery, he had all but given up on life. He was approached by Jim Williams to participate in the hunt that the chapter was hosting and he ultimately decided to give it a try. As a result he has a renewed passion for the outdoors and has come to realize that while he has physical limitations, he is still able to hunt and enjoy the outdoors. Without the Wheelin' Sportsmen program, this American patriot truly might have given up.
I have a similar story of a young hunter that I guided on a JAKES youth turkey hunt in 2011. At the time I met this young man I had no idea what his story was. The Twin Lakes NWTF Chapter hosts an annual spring youth turkey hunt where they offer children hunting opportunities that they might not otherwise have. I had volunteered to serve as a guide for this hunt, and as luck would have it, I was paired up with Caleb Reardon. Caleb is one of the most polite, well-mannered young men I have ever had the pleasure to be around but he was very quiet. I truly thought he was just shy. I had made my mind up that I would get him to talk because I wanted to get to know a little about him. On the ride over to the farm we were going to hunt, I tried to strike up a conversation by asking him how long he had been hunting and what was his favorite animal to hunt. He shared with me that he didn't have very many hunting memories because his father had passed away as a result of a heart attack almost two years ago. I asked Caleb how old his father was and he said he was in his 30's.
This young man was 10 or 11 years old and had lost his father and male role model in his life. He was totally passionate about hunting but needed an outlet. As a result of a family tragedy he was left without having someone to take him hunting. The NWTF Jakes program provided that outlet for Caleb. We were rewarded that spring morning with quite a show when 16 Jakes came running into the decoys and Caleb was able to harvest his first turkey. The neatest thing about the entire hunt is the fact that I had been able to get the hunt on video and had forgotten to stop recording after Caleb had harvested the bird. So when Caleb asked to use my cell phone to call his mom you can hear him sharing the story of the hunt with her and them celebrating his success on video.
These are but just two examples of why I think it is so important for everyone to not only support the NWTF but also to join as a member of the NWTF. There are countless other stories just like Caleb's that could be told from all around the country as a result of the various outreach programs that the NWTF offers. I can assure you that if someone just gets involved, the blessing they receive will far outweigh the investment that they make. I know it has definitely been that way in my experience.