As the NWTF continues to celebrate its 50thhe Anniversary, the organization’s volunteers in the Garden State take a holistic approach to fulfilling the NWTF mission.
What started as an idea turned into an unprecedented fundraising event raising thousands of dollars for conservation, underscoring what can happen when volunteers come together for a cause.
“We wanted to celebrate our 50he Anniversary in a way that got people excited, but would also raise significant funds for our conservation work,” said Louis Gambale, board member of the NWTF Tri-County Long Beards chapter and former president of the New State chapter. Sweater. “Custom calls are always a hit, and we were lucky to have renowned call maker Mike Lapp donate 14 custom calls to our event.”
Thanks to the generosity of Lapp’s donation, the Tri-County Longbeards auctioned off all 14 calls online, raising nearly $10,000 for conservation.
“Mike’s passion for supporting the mission speaks for itself through his many years of giving to banquets, and this year’s personalized call auction was no different,” Gambale said.
Since NWTF’s founding, turkey call makers, whether custom call makers or call companies, have supported the organization in many unique and creative ways, understanding the importance of conservation to turkey hunting. Nearly 50 years later, the dedication and craftsmanship of callers is still real as callers across the country work with the NWTF at both the national and grassroots levels. Lapp’s recent work with volunteers in New Jersey is a shining example of the role of callers in conservation.
And while the New Jersey volunteers found their recent custom auction an undeniable success, the community-based approach to conservation is representative of all the work the NWTF is doing throughout New Jersey.
Here are some examples.
Education and outreach
The New Jersey State Chapter and all local chapters within the state are very active in recruiting new hunters. Throughout the state, volunteers have forged successful partnerships with the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, among others, who facilitate NWTF JAKES, Wheelin’ Sportsmen, and WITO, as well as adult-guided hunts.
For example, the state chapter recently held its annual turkey hunting workshop at Wallkill River National Refuge, which had more than 100 participants. Attendees learned everything it takes to be successful in the turkey groves, from the rules of the game to calling techniques. The event was followed by adult and youth led turkey hunts that allowed workshop attendees to apply newly learned skills.
But it’s not just about hunting turkeys; volunteers in New Jersey keep the momentum in the outdoors year-round, from ray fishing to deer hunting. For example, last deer season, the New Jersey State Chapter of the NWTF partnered with the New Jersey Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers to host a three-day adult-led hunt at Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge. River. Attendees enjoyed wild game dishes (including venison wontons and black bear sloppy joes), learned about safety and best practices, and then got the chance to hunt their first deer. NWTF New Jersey has several similar events planned for this year’s fall season.
Partnerships are also essential to achieving conservation.
“We are proud of our relationship with the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, as they have been crucial to our outreach events and conservation work,” Gambale said. “These partnerships allow us to improve hundreds of acres of habitat on public lands every year.”
Conservation work includes creating early successional habitat, planting conservation trees and seeds, removing invasive species, and more. Additionally, much of the work that the state chapter offers throughout the state is on land that is open to public access for hunting.
“We organize a series of events in these areas where we improve the habitat,” Gambale said. “It allows us to illustrate the importance of conservation for hunting opportunities.”
The Arbor Day Foundation recently awarded the NWTF 7,000 trees to plant in New Jersey, for example, to complement the Shortleaf Pine Initiative and the Atlantic White Cedar Initiative. Planting of the two endangered tree species began in early spring 2023 on Landis Sewer Authority property and will enhance wildlife habitat on the water treatment facility property.
This project is similar to many cases across the country where the two components of NWTF’s mission, conserving wild turkey and preserving our hunting heritage, are intertwined at one project site. In this case, the New Jersey WITO Chapter of the NWTF, the Tri-County Longbeards Chapter, and the New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife have conducted numerous spring turkey hunts on LSA property.
“This project is great because it vividly illustrates the mission of the NWTF,” said Mitchell Blake, NWTF district biologist for New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and Delaware. “Carrying out the work that allows us to conserve wild turkeys provides opportunities for hunters to go out into the field and enjoy the resource.”
As volunteers in New Jersey continue to celebrate 50 years of the NWTFhe Anniversary through numerous mission-related events, they have also set a lofty goal of 50% membership growth.
“It is essential for us to grow to increase our impact,” Gambale said. “A banquet attendant recently called me and expressed how happy he was with our management efforts. I told him to thank himself; we are making a difference through the support of our members and banquet attendees.”