Wisconsin’s hunting heritage is as strong as anywhere in the nation. Hunters are often referred to as the first conservationists, and it is important to recognize the role they play in managing our amazing natural resources. However, with hunter numbers on the decline, groups such as local sportsmen's’ clubs and learn-to-hunt programs are essential in recruiting and retaining ethical hunters. Crawford County’s 2018 Conservation Educator Award goes to the Bluff Country Long Spurs Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Founded in 1988, the Bluff Country Long Spurs have been working hard in Crawford County to promote turkey hunting, provide opportunities for new turkey hunters, and show appreciation to the area’s partnering landowners. Turkey hunting was still relatively new to Wisconsin back in the 80’s, but it was growing rapidly in popularity. They felt the area could benefit by having a local NWTF chapter.
Since 1988, they have held an annual Hunting Heritage Banquet to help raise funding to help support the chapter’s programs and provide scholarship opportunities.
Over the last 25 years, they have offered a “JAKES” Day experience to the area's youngsters. The day includes .22 shooting, archery, trapshooting, and a meal to feed the group of around 30 youth.
In that same timeframe, they have sponsored a Landowner Appreciation Day where landowners receive a free meal as a token of appreciation for allowing sportsmen on their properties. Approximately 250 landowners and their families still attend this event each year. The chapter also has provided many landowners with corn, soybean, sorghum, and sunflower seeds for planting food plots to benefit our wildlife.
Another fine example of the services they provide for our area is the Learn-to-Hunt Program that they offer. Over the last 19 years, the chapter has provided a hunting experience to more than 230 first-time turkey hunters ranging in age from 10-73, including 3 foreign exchange students.
The Bluff Country Long Spurs provided me with the following insight. They feel that what we all do as hunters is important to the future of conservation and hunting in the State of Wisconsin. The Learn-to-Hunt program is one of their most rewarding events. Hunters and parents truly appreciate the service they are providing. They say they do not pressure any hunters to harvest a turkey. It is their belief that an enjoyable and safe day in the woods is what determines a successful hunt.
When I asked what their conservation philosophy was, they told me, “We teach our hunters to respect the land, the landowner, and the wildlife. It’s our intent and hope that everything we teach today’s youth will get passed on to future generations.”
We hope so to, and that is why the Crawford County Land Conservation Committee would like to recognize the efforts of Bluff Country Long Spurs to enhance our hunting heritage and promote wildlife conservation, by presenting them with the 2018 Crawford County Conservation Educator Award.