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Leitchfield resident receives national award for women

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — "Annie Oakley broke down barriers for women with her talent and accomplishments. Mary Free-Phelps has done the same," said Alex Lea, in describing his friend and recipient of the 2010 Annie Oakley Award.

Free-Phelps accepted the award Feb. 18 during the National Wild Turkey Federation's National Convention and Sport Show in Nashville, Tenn. MidwayUSA is the official sponsor of the convention, which lasts through Feb. 20.

Annie Oakley, the award's namesake, was a world-famous sureshot who spent the better part of her life as an ambassador for shooting sports. Likewise, Free-Phelps has inspired women, despite age or experience, to try turkey hunting, through her involvement with the NWTF and it's Women in the Outdoors outreach program.

Free-Phelps has been involved in the NWTF since 1992, beginning her volunteer career with the Southern Hoosier Hills Chapter in Illinois. In 2005, she and husband Randy moved to her family farm in Kentucky, and the couple didn't hesitate to lend their giving spirits to the nearby Twin Lakes Chapter in Grayson County.

"Her main goal is to promote hunting, especially to women, and share the joy hunting has brought to her," said Pat Cardin, NWTF regional director for Kentucky.

Once the Phelps turned the family farm around, they opened their home to women wanting to try turkey hunting by hosting what has become an annual event.

"My first turkey hunt was on Mary's farm," said Judith Gresham, also a Women in the Outdoors member. "She coached me by e-mail all winter, getting me ready for spring. Even though the turkeys stayed hidden from me during the hunt, I was interested in trying again, thanks to Mary's patience and positive attitude. Finally, on my fourth attempt, I bagged a bird this year, at age 68."

Free-Phelps has served in many volunteer roles for the NWTF during the last 19 years, including treasurer of the Indiana State Chapter, a member of the Kentucky State Board of Directors, as well as the state's Women in the Outdoors coordinator.

But Free-Phelps says she's most in her element on her family farm, providing women a chance to hunt, fish and enjoy the calm country life.

"Women in the Outdoors is just so fun," she said. "The ladies who come to hunt with me have become my friends, even the ones who drive from 90 miles away. They feel at home at my home, and that's such a great feeling."

In 2009, Free-Phelps was the first woman inducted into the Kentucky Turkey Hunters Hall of Fame, and now she's joined the ranks of other top Women in the Outdoors volunteers with the 2010 Annie Oakley Award.

"Mary goes far beyond the average volunteer when it comes to living the NWTF mission of conserving, hunting and sharing," said NWTF Spokesperson Brenda Valentine, who has participated in one of the annual hunts on the Phelps farm. "She understands the NWTF is just as much about people as it is conserving turkeys."

The NWTF is a nonprofit conservation organization that works daily to further its mission of conserving the wild turkey and preserving our hunting heritage. Through dynamic partnerships with state, federal and provincial wildlife agencies, the NWTF and its members have helped restore wild turkey populations across the country, spending more than $331 million to conserve 15.9 million acres of habitat for all types of wildlife.

2011 Convention Sponsors

MidwayUSA – Official Sponsor

Academy Sports and Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops, Bank of America, Benelli USA, Browning-USRAC, Call Makers and Collectors Association of America, Chevrolet, Federal Premium Ammunition, Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, HuntVe, Marlin Firearms Company, Mossberg & Sons Inc., Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, Nationwide, The Outdoor Connection Inc., Remington Arms Company Inc., Rivers Edge Treestands, SHE Outdoor Apparel, U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, Weatherby Inc., Wild Turkey Bourbon, Winchester/Olin Corporation




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