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Kansas Chapter Grows by Staying Busy

Members of the Flint Hills Gobblers Chapter have a full social calendar. There's the state awards banquet in January. The annual spring turkey hunting clinic for youth in March. Don't forget to pencil in the JAKES statewide camp in September. Oh, and the JAKES waterfowl hunt the following month.

The NWTF chapter, based in Emporia, Kan., has something going all year long, thanks to Chapter President Gib Rhodes and his devoted committee.

Rhodes received the JAKES Volunteer of the Year Award in 2012 at the NWTF National Convention and Sports Show.

His interest in JAKES began when he attended a seminar led by NWTF JAKES Coordinator Mandy Harling four years ago.

"I saw what other chapters were doing in their areas and how easy it would be to do more for the kids in our community."

That's when the Flint Hills Gobblers became a 12-month chapter.

"A 12-month chapter is pretty much a chapter that stays involved all year," said the NWTF's Tom Hughes, formerly vice president for education and outreach. "They do more than just an annual banquet; they do something connected to the NWTF every month, whether it's habitat work, conservation, outreach or education."

Rhodes is a retired schoolteacher, so it's no surprise he aligned himself with a group that focuses on the children of his community. He began his NWTF volunteer career eight years ago by attending the Flint Hills Gobblers' annual Hunting Heritage Banquet.

Every year, the chapter hosts an essay contest for area youth 16 and younger, who vie for a turkey hunting prize package that this year included a youth model shotgun, a loaded turkey vest and a hunt with a committee member.

The chapter also raises money for the Beau Arndt Scholarship for Emporia State University. It's given to a student pursuing an education in wildlife biology in memory of a young man who was killed in a hunting incident. So far, the chapter has raised $1,600.

But the event of the year is the annual spring turkey hunting clinic for youth. For the last decade, chapter volunteers have hosted this free clinic, and this year 210 JAKES attended the daylong event, usually held a week before turkey season begins.

"Our chapter lives for that spring clinic," Rhodes said. "Our banquet is now driven by that event."

"NWTF research has shown that active chapters attract more members, have better banquets and are overall more successful," said Hughes. "It keeps the committee's interest going because there aren't any gaps or downtime."

Before you think 12-month chapters like the Flint Hills Gobblers are all work and no play, think again.

"We have 28 committee members who enjoy each other," said Rhodes. "We're different ages and have different lots in life, but we all love turkey hunting and putting on events for kids. We've formed lifelong friendships and have become hunting buddies."

Can an NWTF chapter live on one banquet alone?

Yes, but it's often a struggle.

"A chapter can exist on one banquet a year, and some chapters do," Rhodes said. "But they're missing out on all the fun."




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