NWTF Completes Record-Breaking National Convention
NASHVILLE, Tenn. —The NWTF's 36th annual National Convention and Sport Show was a fantastic success, with a record 650 exhibitor booths sold and near-record attendance.
There were 44,606 convention attendees, which surpassed the previous year's total of 43,442 and narrowly missed the record of 45,000 attendees at the 2010 convention. MidwayUSA was the official convention sponsor.
"I am extremely pleased with this year's convention; I believe it was our best ever," said George Thornton, NWTF CEO. "Many volunteers noted how they enjoyed the entertainment, awards and exhibit hall. We raised the bar for all future conventions with this one.
"Our volunteers showed up in force to support the NWTF's mission of conserving wildlife and preserving our hunting heritage, our vendors reported terrific sales, and everyone had a tremendous time at the Gaylord Opryland hotel."
The 2012 convention's theme was "Hunters: Champions of Conservation." Thanks to the long time efforts of hunters, wild turkeys have been restored from 30,000 birds in the 1930s to more than 7 million today. Other wildlife species, including deer and waterfowl, have made tremendous comebacks in the last century thanks to revenue raised through hunting license sales and the Pittman-Robertson Act, an excise tax on hunting equipment. These two sources provide about 90 percent of the funding for state wildlife agencies across the nation.
In 2011, the NWTF worked with its partners to put more than $40 million toward upland habitat conservation and outreach programs. The NWTF helped improve more than 1 million acres of essential habitat and introduced more than 100,000 youth, women and people with disabilities to the outdoors in the last year.
"We're successful because we have a mission that is right with the world," Thornton said during his keynote speech at the Welcome Party. "Not only are we helping wild turkeys, we're also improving essential upland habitat that benefits a great many species, and we're fighting to defend and preserve our hunting heritage. We are fighting a good fight. We're fighting the right fight for our families, children and grandchildren."
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, National Resources Conservation Service Chief Dave White and MidwayUSA founder Larry Potterfield were among the featured speakers, all drawing multiple standing ovations for their speeches about the importance of habitat conservation and protecting our hunting heritage.
Entertainment included the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Ricky Skaggs, Ashton Shepherd, Daves Highway, Andy Griggs, Eric Lee Beddingfield and Brad Davis.
"The show in Nashville was another great success," said Federal Public Relations Manager Tim Brandt. "The state of hunting is alive and well. As it is every year, the convention hall was packed all three days. We got a chance to talk with hunters from all over the country. We're happy to be a part of the success of the conservation efforts of the NWTF and the industry as a whole."
Added Tom Stuckey, Director of Conservation Sales & Fulfillment for the Outdoor Marketing Group: "The NWTF convention was a special one for me, the members of the Outdoor Marketing Group and the factories we represent. Without doubt the NWTF has raised the bar for other groups to try to reach."
As part of the convention activities, the NWTF honored its top volunteers, chapters and partners. Among the highlights:
- Dale and Kitty Bounds of Lufkin, Texas, won the C.B. McLeod Award, presented to an NWTF volunteer who has dedicated his or her life to wildlife conservation.
- Larry and Brenda Potterfield of Columbia, Mo., won the Lynn Boykin Hunting Heritage Award.
- Ron Eakes of Trinity, Ala., won the Wayne Bailey Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in conservation.
- Steve Sams of Prescott Valley, Ariz., Bryan Perry of Zebulon, N.C., Roger Demanette of Concordia, Kan., Jim Wescott of Windham, Maine, and Tom Howe of Alymer, Ontario, were honored with Roger M. Latham Sportsman Wild Turkey Service Awards for their significant contributions to wild turkey conservation.
- Gordon Vines of Jacksonville, Fla., won the Wild Turkey Bourbon Rare Breed Society Award, which is presented to a volunteer who exemplifies grassroots dedication to the NWTF's mission, programs and wild turkey conservation.
- Ray Eye of Hillsboro, Mo., won the Communicator of the Year Award.
- Jan Kuhtic of Hastings, Mich., won the Outreach Volunteer of the Year Award.
- Southern Company of Atlanta, Ga., won the Corporate Achievement Award for its efforts to support conservation and our hunting heritage.
- William Bryan Fisher of Eldridge, Ala., was named the NWTF's National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for exemplifying the very best in this challenging field.
- In the Grand National Calling Championships, Matt Van Cise of Brookeville, Pa., won the Senior Division Championship; Mark Prudhomme of Georgetown, S.C., won the Rare Breed Champion of Champions Competition; and Jesse Martin of Mt. Sterling, Ky., won the Head-to-Head Competition.
- The Bakersfield Chapter of Bakersfield, Calif., won the Best of Best Local Chapter award, followed by the Wekiva Springs Strutters of Apopka, Fla., and the Little Wabash Longbeards of Watson, Ill.
For a full list of award winners, visit: www.nwtf.org/special_events/post_convention.html
The 37th Annual NWTF Convention and Sport Show will be held Feb. 14-17, 2013, at Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.
2012 Convention Sponsors
MidwayUSA -- Official Sponsor
Academy Sports + Outdoors, Barronett Blinds, Bass Pro Shops, Benelli, Big Tex Trailers, Bird Dog and Whitetail Whiskey, Browning, Cabela's, Chevrolet, Federal Premium Ammunition, Marlin Firearms, Mossy Oak, Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, Nationwide, O.F. Mossberg, Remington Arms Company, Inc., Titan UTV, Winchester/Olin Corporation, U.S. Sportsman's Alliance, Weatherby and Wild Turkey Bourbon.