The program received funding from the California State Chapter of NWTF and an Upland Game Bird Grant through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). These financial resources were instrumental in hiring a Hunt Program Assistant, who played a vital role in organizing the weekend hunts, building blinds, scouting turkeys, providing guidance and mentorship to new hunters, and overseeing the operations at the hunter check station.
Within the Sacramento Valley, the Sacramento and Delavan refuge areas served as important locations for hunting heritage, providing valuable opportunities for mentorship to 18 new hunters. The process of selecting apprentice turkey hunters was facilitated through the California Waterfowl Association website on a weekly basis. Each apprentice was then paired with experienced mentors to guide them throughout their hunting experience.
The program achieved remarkable success, with 15 out of the total hunters successfully harvesting their first turkey—all of which were mature toms. The selected group of hunters represented a diverse range of individuals, including youth hunters, men, women, and veterans, demonstrating the inclusivity and accessibility of the program.
Despite challenging hunting conditions such as coyote harassment, inclement weather, and unresponsive turkeys in large flocks, the hunters exhibited perseverance and were rewarded with their first bird, while also gaining valuable knowledge about turkey behavior and hunting techniques.
“I had the pleasure of participating in opening weekend and assisting a veteran getting his first turkey,” NWTF District Biologist Krista Modlin said. “It was very rewarding seeing all the hard work going into this program paying off in a successful hunt.”
The accomplishments of these first-time hunters were made possible by the hunt coordinator and dedicated volunteers who guided them. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff contributed their expertise by monitoring turkey populations and movements over multiple years, constructing blinds, establishing hunting locations, and collaborating with partners to implement these apprentice hunting opportunities.
The NWTF recognizes that hunters and anglers are the number one constituency that provides funding for the CDFW. In 2017 alone, hunters and anglers directly contributed over $42.4 million to the CDFW's budget. However, hunting license sales in California have declined by 65% since 1970, and this decline directly impacts the state's ability to conserve its fish, wildlife, and natural resources. To counteract these trends, the CDFW, along with diverse stakeholder groups and state, federal, and tribal partners, established the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Hunting and Fishing Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation (R3) Action Plan, aiming to increase hunting and fishing participation statewide.
The apprentice hunt program has played a significant role in addressing barriers faced by hunters, such as limited access to open land and water, lack of mentorship, and insufficient opportunities. The NWTF is dedicated to preserving our nation’s hunting heritage and is committed to helping reverse the decline of hunters in California.
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 50th anniversary, 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 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.