Massachusetts ‘Godfather’ Receives NWTF Conservation Award
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Growing up in New England, Joe Judd spent his springs pining for the fall hunting season. Then one day in 1975, he got some great news from a friend.
“He told me there was something we could hunt in the spring in New York,” Judd recalled. “For me, as a young man, it was like telling me I could pan for gold.”
The “something” Judd could hunt in New York was wild turkey. A few years later, became one of the first hunters to harvest a turkey in Massachusetts’ new season. Judd would go on to become known as “The Godfather of Turkey Hunting” in the commonwealth.
For his commitment to the NWTF mission of the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of our hunting heritage, the Shelburne, Mass., resident received the Roger M. Latham Sportsman Wild Turkey Service Award Feb. 16 at the annual NWTF Convention and Sport Show.
The awards ceremony was part of the NWTF’s celebration of its 40th anniversary and its 2013 theme, “Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.”
Judd’s turkey hunting career has included three decades as a spokesman for Quaker Boy turkey calls and a prominent role working with former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld to get the wild turkey recognized as the state’s official wild game bird.
“Without hunters and conservationists such as Joe Judd, we would not have wild turkey in every state in continental America,” said James Earl Kennamer, Ph.D., the NWTF’s chief conservation officer.
The state where wild turkeys became known in legend as the main course of the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving with local Native Americans, had no wild turkey only 40 years ago.
But in 1977, 36 Eastern Wild Turkeys were released in western Massachusetts. A few years later, Massachusetts issued 63 tags for its first season. Thanks to conservation efforts by hunters such as Judd, who worked with landowners, the state now has more than 25,000 wild turkeys.
“One can only be a “pioneer” at a certain point in the history of any endeavor,” said NWTF Massachusetts Board of Directors member Phil McCarthy. “Here in Massachusetts, Joe Judd is that pioneer.”
In his work with Weld, the former governor acquired public access for more land for hunters. Judd often brings youth to places where they can see the flocks and be introduced to the species.
“You come here and see flocks of 75 to 90 wild turkeys all the time,” said Judd. “In the entire New England region, turkey hunting is a growing sport by leaps and bounds. I guarantee you can up here and have a good hunt.”
With Quaker Boy, Judd conducts seminars, demonstrating turkey calling and promoting the sport.
A state with virtually no turkey hunters a few generations ago now has about 16,000 turkey hunters. Judd credits the early Massachusetts turkey hunters with following solid biological practices and pushing turkey hunting past government hurdles.
“Receiving this award is very rewarding and humbling,” Judd said. “A lot of the people I worked with in 1979 deserve so much of the credit. Now, the Eastern Wild Turkey will never again be lost in Massachusetts.”
The NWTF, a nonprofit organization, is the leader in upland wildlife habitat conservation. Through dynamic partnerships with state, federal and provincial wildlife agencies, the NWTF and its members have helped restore 17.3 million acres of wildlife habitat, investing $412 million.
Since the NWTF’s founding in 1973, the North American wild turkey population has increased from 1.3 million to 6.5 million with wild turkey inhabiting 99 percent of suitable habitat.
For more information about the Roger M. Latham Sportsman Wild Turkey Service Awards or other convention highlights, call (800) THE-NWTF, visit www.nwtf.org or go to www.facebook.com/theNWTF.