Wild turkey enthusiast from all over the Midwest converged on Wisconsin Dells this past weekend for the National Wild Turkey Federation Annual Convention. A record 400 + people came to learn about wild turkey management and conservation. In addition, to turkey biology and management, viewers could watch and listen to the Midwest’s best custom call makers and turkey callers.
The annual business meeting was held on Friday morning with 25 people in attendance. The Board re-elected the following 4 board members: Earl Duckett, Tom Berenz, Jerry Krueger and Michele Leininger. The WSC Board includes the following: President-David Burke, Vice President-Carl Luedke, Treasurer-Earl Duckett and Tom Berenz-Secretary.
The Midwest Custom Call Making Competition was held in conjunction with the convention and over 250 custom box, friction, wing bone, tube and air-operated calls were judged. Over $7,500 in prize money and ribbons were awarded over the 2 day competition. Contest Chairman Earl Duckett stated this is the 2nd largest custom call making competition in the world with call makers from 25 states competing.
Top honors in the Division I Decorative calls were awarded to Eric Rice the 2015 Midwest Decorative Call Maker of the Year. Eric also won three Best of Show Awards for Decorative Box calls, Air Operated calls and Friction Calls. The 2015 Decorative Rookie Call Maker of the Year was awarded to Rodd Madison. Top Youth Call Maker of the Year was presented to Jake Tevis.
In Division II Hunting Turkey calls, the 2015 Midwest Hunting Call Maker of the Year was awarded to Kimmy Hanks. Other top honors were presented to Frank M. Kruer III, Kevin Lynch and Bob Fulcher was recognized as the Rookie Call Maker of the Year.
The Welcome Party was a festive occasion with numerous attendees in camo clad. Special Guest Speakers included; Rick Horton, Regional Biologist for the NWTF, Scott Walter WDNR Upland Ecologist and Mark LaBarbera speaking on behalf of “Hunting Works for Wisconsin”.
The focus of the presentations on Friday night was on the NWTF’s new initiative “Save the Habitat.Save the Hunt”. National Goals of this 10 year initiative are to conserve or enhance 4 million acres of habitat, recruit 1.5 million new hunters and open up 500,000 acres to hunting access. In Wisconsin, our goals are to enhance 220,000 acres, recruit 35,000 new hunters and open up 15,000 new access acres for hunting. In order to achieve these goals the NWTF and WDNR will collaborate and match Super Fund dollars with Turkey Stamp Funds. Scott Walter, DNR Upland Wildlife Ecologist presented a wild turkey management update and stated that Wisconsin’s wild turkey flock was doing well over most of the state. Mark LaBarbera’s presentation “Hunting Works for Wisconsin” reported on the importance of hunting to Wisconsin’s economy. Overall, hunting has a 4 billion dollar ripple effect on the state economy.
Saturday’s events included the following; the State and Open Turkey Calling Contests sponsored by Cabela’s, WITO Feather and Antler Jewelry, Chapter Leadership Meeting and Luncheon sponsored by “Hunting Works for Wisconsin”, the Annual Awards and fundraising Banquet sponsored by Wollersheim Winery.
The State and Open Turkey Call Contests were well attended with 30 contestants competing in 6 categories.
The WITO Feather and Antler Jewelry making session were hosted by the State Women in the Outdoors Committee, instructed by Michele Leininger. 21 people attended the drop in session creating approximately 50 pieces of jewelry.
The Leadership Meeting started at 10 a.m. with over 100 local chapter leaders in attendance. The purpose of the meeting was to educate our leaders on the importance of the Super Fund, how it works, what projects we fund and how we collectively will implement our Save the Habitat.Save the Hunt goals. Rebecca Barnard – National Forestry Programs Manager from Edgefield, S.C. reported on the importance of National Partnerships and how they help us achieve our habitat management goals. According to Rebecca the NWTF is the 5th largest purchaser of Federal Timber. The revenues generated from the timber sales go directly back to the national forests for habitat enhancement and benefit all wildlife. By working with our partners we can engage and preserve our collective ability to actively manage forests.
Mike Skaife, NWTF Volunteer presented a summary of his role as our Save the Hunt Coordinator. Mike will be responsible for helping report the number of hunters recruited from hunter safety education classes, learn to hunt programs and the hunter pledge card sign up banquets this year. Mike will be working in concert with regional staff who will forward the pledge cards from local banquets. In addition, he will coordinate hunter recruitment and retention efforts with DNR.
Keith Warnke, Hunter Recruitment and Retention Specialist for WDNR gave an overview of Hunter Mentorship programs. Keith indicated that the current Learn to Hunts are directed mostly at young hunters and in the future the agency will focus efforts on reaching more young adults. He also, reported that the agency was looking at providing financial incentives to local chapters and individuals who mentor new hunter(s) in 2015 and beyond.
The next presenter was Andy Opichka a member of the Wisconsin State Chapter Board of Directors. Andy introduced the new state chapter web site which he spearheaded and led a discussion on how the web site and social media will benefit all chapters. He is in the process of creating local chapter web page links on the state site and encouraged all interested chapters to contact him for implementation.
NWTF Regional Staff presented a summary of benefits available to members and local chapters, marketing tools to help deliver our conservation message and the importance of membership, recruiting new volunteers and upper level membership development.
At the conclusion of the leadership meeting the 2014 Top Gun Local Chapter awards were presented. Chapters were recognized in three areas: top Revenue producers, top Membership leaders and chapters with outstanding Outreach Events. In addition, 35 local chapters were recognized for increases of net income over previous year by $1,500 or more.
The weekend event concluded with the annual Awards and Fundraising banquet. This special event recognizes outstanding individual and local chapter contributions to the overall success of NWTF and our mission “the conservation of the wild turkey and preservation of our hunting heritage”. Those being recognized include the following:
2014 Outstanding Land Steward of the Year –
Gary & Cherylann Berghammer
2014 Conservation Educator of the Year – Pamela Resech
2014 Distinguished Service Awards – Keith Skadahl, Bill Alber
2014 Overall Volunteer of the Year – Bill Meddings
2014 Wildlife Manager of the Year – Al Cornell
2014 Wildlife Officer of the Year – Adam Hanna
2014 Wheelin’ Sportsman of the Year – Jim Lutzen
2014 Annie Oakley Outstanding WITO Volunteer of the Year – Linda Hinz
2014 Outstanding JAKES Volunteer of the Year – David Burke
2014 Roger M. Latham Outstanding Volunteer of the Year – Earl Duckett
2014 L.A. Dixon Jr. Memorial Chapter Achievement Awards
1/2 Million Dollar Club
Sand Country Turkey Talkers
Sheboygan Roosted Toms
1 Million Dollar Club
Meadow Valley Chapter
The Key-note speaker was Scott Walter who spoke on behalf of DNR Secretary - Secretary Cathy Stepp who was not able to join us. The benefit auctions and raffles were very successful with over $22,000 being raised for conservation. Total revenues for the weekend will exceed $40,000.