Representatives from the Henry County Longbeards Chapter, Virgina; Maryland State Chapter, the Gator Gobblers Chapter, Florida; Monocacy Valley Chapter, Maryland; and the Arizona State Chapter accepted R3 awards during the NWTF’s 50th anniversary celebration at its 47th annual NWTF Convention and Sport Show, sponsored by Mossy Oak.
NWTF chapter events across the country are vital because hunter numbers across the U.S. have decreased at an alarming rate for the past 30 years, a trend that could jeopardize the conservation of natural resources.
The state chapters received recognition for the following events:
Henry County Longbeards – Annual JAKES Youth Day Turkey Hunt
2022 was the fifth year the Henry County Longbeards Chapter held its youth weekend turkey hunt. Since the inception of the event, it has steadily grown to what it is today. Nine hunters, assisted by 14 mentors, got the opportunity to harvest a wild turkey. This event has been a staple event for the Henry County Longbeards, who look forward to continuing to enhance the event for the benefit of the R3 movement.
The mission, ‘The NWTF is dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey and preservation of our hunting heritage’ is everything to me and the committee members of the Henry County Longbeards of Virginia,” said Jeff McCambridge, Henry County Longbeards Chapter president. “The Henry County Longbeards understand the importance of this mission as our hunter numbers have been steadily declining for the past several years. That is why it's our passion within the chapter to introduce our hunting heritage and activities in the great outdoors to as many as possible. We especially concentrate on our JAKES and WITO members. We have come to learn over the years that if we can get the JAKES and women involved with more outdoors activities, we can and will produce more licensed hunters. This in itself will directly impact the mission of the NWTF! It is such a great honor to be the recipient of the 2023 National R3 Award.
Monocacy Valley Chapter - JAKES Day
Last spring, the chapter hosted its annual JAKES event with 102 youth in attendance. The day started with trout fishing in a pond stocked for the event. At lunch, all youth received a turkey call as a gift and enjoyed hot dogs and burgers. After lunch everyone was divided into smaller groups and rotated through five stations: woods walk, shotgun patterning, archery, retriever demonstration and turkey calling. At the end of the day, volunteers held a random drawing for mentored hunts that took place on youth day. Chapter representatives were able to take 31 youth this year, 18 of which were first-time hunters and 11 were blessed to tag a turkey.
"There are many chapters across the country doing great things for the mission of the NWTF,” said Russ Lieth, Moncocacy Valley Chapter president and Maryland save the hunt coordinator. “Monocacy Valley chapter is truly honored to be recognized again for our efforts towards preserving our hunting heritage. The entire chapter takes pride in knowing that what we do for our youth is appreciated."
NWTF Maryland State Chapter – First Shot Mentored Hunt
The NWTF Maryland State Chapter hosted its First Shot Mentored Deer Hunt for the fourth year in a row. Twenty-five new adult hunters were randomly selected from a pool of over 80 applicants. Due to COVID-19 restrictions on federal land, the chapter adapted and held hunting seminars and workshops virtually. Mentors were able to meet in person and review firearm safety and practice on the range. Despite some flooding and other challenges caused by a hurricane, the chapter volunteers rose to the occasion: 23 hunters were successful over the course of two days of hunting.
"The Maryland state chapter is extremely proud of our First Shot program and the impact it has made in the recruitment of new hunters,” said Russ Leith, Monocacy Valley Chapter president and Maryland save the hunt coordinator. “This past October we celebrated the fifth anniversary of the program and in that time have introduced over 150 new adults to hunting. Many thanks to all the dedicated volunteers and mentors that are determined to make a difference, now and in the future"
Arizona State Chapter – Robbins Butte Dove Hunt for Families
Arizona Wheelin' Sportsmen partnered with the Arizona Game and Fish Department for a family and disabled hunter dove hunt. The volunteers provided breakfast pastries and a catered lunch for all workers and attendees and had three families and three disabled hunters attend for a total of 22 people.
“Our R3 work is something that we try to implement into every event that we are involved in, from our JAKES camp in the spring, to our youth and Wheelin Sportsmen dove hunts in the fall and everything in between,” said Arizona State Chapter president. “Our chapters have towed our ‘JAKES take aim’ trailer all over the state to use at outdoor expos, youth events and hunts. We talk about R3 at all of our banquets and turkey calling and hunting seminars, our water catchment projects and pretty much anything the Arizona State Chapter is involved in.”
The Gator Gobblers host three youth, three women and two collegiate mentored hunt weekends throughout the year, exclusively for new hunters. The chapter has a dedicated group of volunteers to help guide, four certified range instructors for the shooting range, two biologists to help educate the new hunters about the game and a full cook crew that keeps everyone well fed. Last year alone, the chapter had a total of 103 new hunters participate in their hunts.
“We are humbled to receive an award of this caliber, as our chapter strives to maintain the motto of ‘Recruit, Retain, Reactivate,’” said Missie Schneider, Gator Gobblers Chapter president. “The Gator Gobblers hosts several mentored outreach hunts each year that focus on recruiting new youth, women and collegiate hunters. We all share a passion for the outdoors and passing that passion along to others. What we get out of it is a sense of accomplishment by seeing the smiles on those new hunters and knowing that the hunting legacy will continue for years to come. The most gratifying aspect is having the kids we mentor become mentors.”
“Be it youth, adults or others from nontraditional and underserved backgrounds — introducing people from all walks of life to the hunting and outdoor community is integral to our mission,” NWTF co-CEO Kurt Dyroff said. “We are thankful for our chapters that keep their events engaging and fun. We are proud to honor these chapters with R3 awards for their great work.”
About the National Wild Turkey Federation
Since 1973, the National Wild Turkey Federation has invested over half a billion dollars into wildlife conservation and has conserved or enhanced over 22 million acres of critical wildlife habitat. The organization continues to drive wildlife conservation, forest resiliency and robust recreational opportunities throughout the U.S. by working across boundaries on a landscape scale. 2023 is the NWTF's 50th anniversary and an opportunity to propel the organization's mission into the future while honoring its rich history.
For its 50-year celebration, the NWTF has set six ambitious goals: positively impact 1 million acres of wildlife habitat; raise $500,000 for wild turkey research; increase membership to 250,000 members; dedicate $1 million to education and outreach programs; raise $5 million to invest in technology and the NWTF's people; and raise $5 million to build toward a $50 million endowment for the future. Learn how you can help us reach these lofty goals.