The NWTF was just three years into its existence at that time, but board members, officers and chapter presidents (there were only seven at the time) showed up in force at board member Brooks Holleman’s wild turkey ranch to discuss the future of wild turkey conservation.
Richard Shively, a 30-year-old, newly appointed NWTF Virginia State Chapter president at the time, attended the historic hunt camp and board meeting.
“We were all there trying to get the turkey Federation off the ground,” he said from his North Carolina home nearly 50 years later. “I hadn’t been president of the Virginia NWTF very long, but I remember nobody killed a turkey at the camp, and we had some great turkey hunters there.”
Shively recalls catching catfish in the afternoons during the three-day hunt camp, and he believes Missouri State Chapter President Bud Seals ended up in the pond unwillingly, thanks to a gentle push from NWTF founder Tom Rodgers. Shively’s most vivid memory may have been the detour he took while hunting one morning on new, flat ground.
“I heard a turkey off to my left one morning,” he said. “At that time, I wasn’t near as knowledgeable about turkey hunting as I am today; so, I went after the turkey and I followed a fence row down. I never did see him. I followed the fence line back and somehow ended up 3 miles from camp. First time in my life I’d ever been lost. I’m from the mountains where you can get a bearing. Down there, you don’t bear on nothing. I’d never hunted flat land before.”
The NWTF was just getting off the ground in ’76, but Rodgers felt it was a foundational year with membership doubling and a growing budget thanks to a new wild turkey print and stamp program. Shively, now 80, looks back on the group photo taken in April, a half-century ago, and can’t fathom the passage of time.
“I look back and I can’t believe that I could be as old as I am now,” he said. “It was just a blink of an eye."