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NWTF Chapters Receive National Outreach Awards

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Four NWTF chapters received national awards for outstanding achievements in the recruitment, retention and reactivation of hunters. The R3 Award is given to chapters that facilitate hunting heritage events, including JAKES, Wheelin’ Sportsmen and Women in the Outdoors, focused on getting new hunters afield.

February 17, 20244 min read

Representatives from the Henry County Longbeards Chapter, Virginia; The Monocacy Valley Chapter, Maryland; The Y-Bridge Longbeards Chapter, Ohio; and the Cleveland County Cutters and Strutters Chapter, Arkansas, accepted R3 awards during the NWTF’s 48th annual NWTF Convention and Sport Show, sponsored by Mossy Oak.

NWTF chapter events across the country are vital to correcting declining hunter numbers, which have decreased for the past 30 years, a trend that could jeopardize the conservation of our great natural resources.

The state chapters received recognition for the following events:

Henry County Longbeards – Annual JAKES Youth Day Turkey Hunt

2023 was the sixth year the Henry County Longbeards held its annual JAKES Day Turkey Hunt. This year’s participation was a large success, with 28 mentors taking 24 youth hunters into the field to enjoy the great outdoors. In addition to the hunt, the youth enjoyed a day of shooting BB guns, fishing and playing corn hole. All attendees enjoyed a great cookout, and the attending JAKES received a box call and membership.

“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,” Jeff McCambridge said. “The HCLB 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

The JAKES Day event kicked off with a morning of trout fishing in a pond stocked for the event. At lunch, all youth received a turkey call. Following the meal and a turkey calling session, the youth were divided into smaller groups and rotated through five stations: woods walk, shotgun patterning, archery, bird dog demonstrations and turkey calling. These stations are designed to teach woodsmanship, turkey hunting strategies, conservation and the importance of knowing your equipment and taking ethical shots. After a day full of smiles and learning, chapter volunteers held a drawing to see who would get the opportunity to participate in the chapter’s mentored turkey hunt, which was held on Maryland’s youth day.

Additionally, the chapter and its mentors are known for building relationships with the families of mentees through their JAKES Day event, which has led chapter mentors to take not just the kids, but the whole family afield for deer and waterfowl hunts.

“To be recognized by the NWTF for an outreach event is something special, but for the chapter to be found deserving for four years in a row is almost beyond words,” said Russ Leith, Monocacy Valley Chapter president. “Our chapter is proud to support the NWTF's mission however we can, and our JAKES event and hunter recruitment efforts are something our entire committee is passionate about.”

NWTF Cleveland County Cutter and Strutters – JAKES Day  

With over 207 kids and an action-packed day of hands-on learning, the NWTF Cutter and Stutters Chapter considers this one of the best turnouts it has had in the annual event’s 23 years. The Cleveland County JAKES Day event included numerous learning stations where kids spoke with experts and engaged with the activities at each station, including hunter and shooting safety, shotgun shooting, taxidermy, animal identification, trapping, off-road vehicle education and more. NWTF volunteers are the driving force that brings together the different experts from the community to make such events successful.

Jimmy Edmond and John Varnell, NWTF Arkansas volunteers and Cleveland County JAKES Day coordinators, raised over $5,000 in donations before the event, allowing for meals at the free event and hosting a variety of giveaways for the kids, including 21 firearms.

“Thank you so much [for this award],” Varnell said.  “It’s a true honor to be involved in helping with this program.”

Y-Bridge Longbeards – 16th Annual Gary Finnicum Memorial Wheelin’ Sportsmen Spring Turkey Hunt

The Y-Bridge Longbeards Chapter of the NWTF partnered with the Ohio Division of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife and the ODNR Division of Forestry to sponsor the 16th annual Gary Finnicum Memorial Turkey Hunt in 2023 at Blue Rock State Forest. The Wheelin' Sportsmen event allowed 19 disabled hunters the opportunity to participate in a spring turkey hunt with 58 guides who have volunteered their time to scout for turkeys, set up blinds and adaptive equipment and donate the use of their UTVs to provide transportation to and from hunting sites.

“The Y-Bridge Longbeards NWTF Chapter of Zanesville, Ohio, is honored to be recognized for our efforts that benefit the R3 movement and excited to accept the National R3 Award for our 16th annual Gary Finnicum Memorial Wheelin’ Sportsmen Spring Turkey Hunt and share it with our partners, sponsors, members, guides, hunters, and community,” said Melissa Spring, Y-Bridge Longbeards volunteer and fundraising chair. “The mission of our Wheelin’ Sportsmen event is to show that the outdoors is for everyone! … For some participants, this event offers their first opportunity to reclaim an active lifestyle, which allows us to make an impact on our hunting heritage. Our chapters’ goal is that camaraderie facilitates hope and fosters confidence, self-esteem and independence among our participants. As we dedicate our time and passion to further the NWTF mission, we want to thank our many volunteers who have donated over 2,200 hours for our three-day event and for their commitment to our Hunting Heritage Outreach Program.”

“Our selfless volunteers never cease to amaze me,” NWTF co-CEO Kurt Dyroff said. “Whether it is getting a youth out in the woods for their first turkey hunt, or rekindling the fire of a hunter who has lapsed, our volunteers spend countless hours planning and orchestrating an array of events that engage people and bring them into our organization. We are proud to recognize all of these chapters with R3 awards.”

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 positively impacted over 23 million acres of critical wildlife habitat. The NWTF has also invested over $9 million into wild turkey research to guide the management of the wild turkey population and to ensure sustainable populations into perpetuity. The organization continues to deliver its mission by working across boundaries on a landscape scale through its Four Shared Values: clean and abundant water, healthy forests and wildlife habitat, resilient communities, and robust recreational opportunities. With the help of its dedicated members, partners and staff, the NWTF continues its work to provide Healthy Habitats. and Healthy Harvests. for future generations.

Filed Under:
  • Convention and Sport Show
  • Hunting Heritage
  • Learn to Hunt