EDGEFIELD, SC — Five NWTF chapters received national awards for outstanding achievement in hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation. The R3 Award is given to chapters that facilitate hunting heritage events, including JAKES, Wheelin’ Sportsmen and Women in the Outdoors, focused on attracting new hunters to the field.
Representatives of the Longbeards chapter of Henry County, Virginia; Maryland State Chapter, Gator Gobblers, Florida Chapter; Monocacy Valley, Maryland chapter; and the Arizona State Chapter accepted the R3 Awards during the NWTF’s 50th Anniversary Celebration at its 47th Annual NWTF Sports Convention & Expo, sponsored by Mossy Oak.
NWTF chapter events across the country are vital because the number of hunters in the US has declined at an alarming rate over the past 30 years, a trend that could jeopardize the conservation of natural resources.
State chapters received recognition for the following events:
Henry County Longbeards – JAKES Annual Youth Day Turkey Hunt
2022 was the fifth year that the Henry County Longbeards Chapter held its Youth Weekend Turkey Hunt. Since the event’s inception, it has steadily grown to what it is today. Nine hunters, assisted by 14 mentors, had the opportunity to capture a wild turkey. This event has been a staple event for the Henry County Longbeards, who hope to continue to enhance the event for the benefit of the R3 movement.
The mission, ‘The NWTF is dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of our hunting heritage,’ means everything to me and the committee members of the Henry County Longbeards of Virginia,” said Jeff McCambridge, chapter president. of Henry County Longbeards. “Henry County Longbeards understand the importance of this mission as our hunter numbers have steadily declined over the past few years. That’s why it’s our passion within the chapter to introduce our hunting and outdoor heritage to as many as possible. We especially focus on our members JAKES and WITO. We have come to learn over the years that if we can get JAKES and women involved in more outdoor activities, we can and will produce more licensed hunters. This in itself will have a direct impact on the mission of the NWTF! It is a great honor to receive the 2023 R3 National Award.
Monocacy Valley Chapter – JAKES Day
Last spring, the chapter hosted its annual JAKES event with 102 youth in attendance. The day began with trout fishing in a pond stocked for the event. At lunch, all the youth received a turkey call as a gift and enjoyed hot dogs and hamburgers. After lunch, everyone broke into smaller groups and rotated through five stations: Woods Walk, Shotgun Pattern, Archery, Retriever Demonstration, and Turkey Singing. At the end of the day, the volunteers held a random drawing for the guided hunts that took place on youth day. Chapter representatives were able to capture 31 youth this year, 18 of whom were first-time hunters and 11 of whom were blessed to brand a turkey.
“There are many chapters across the country that are doing great things for the mission of the NWTF,” said Russ Lieth, president of the Moncocacy Valley chapter and coordinator of the Maryland save the hunt. “The Monocacy Valley Chapter is truly honored to be recognized again for our efforts to preserve our hunting heritage. The entire chapter takes pride in knowing that what we do for our youth is appreciated.”
NWTF Maryland State Chapter: First Shot Guided Hunt
The Maryland State Chapter of the NWTF hosted its First Shot Mentored Deer Hunt for the fourth year in a row. Twenty-five new adult hunters were randomly selected from a pool of more than 80 applicants. Due to COVID-19 restrictions on federal land, the chapter adapted and held hunting seminars and workshops virtually. The mentors were able to meet in person and review firearms safety and practice at the shooting range. Despite some flooding and other challenges from a hurricane, the chapter’s volunteers rose to the occasion: 23 hunters were successful over the course of two days of hunting.
“The Maryland State Chapter is extremely proud of our First Shot program and the impact it has had on recruiting new hunters,” said Russ Leith, Monocacy Valley chapter president and Maryland save the hunt coordinator. “Last October we celebrated the fifth anniversary of the program and in that time we have introduced more than 150 new adults to the hunt. Thank you so much to all the dedicated volunteers and mentors who are determined to make a difference, now and in the future.”
Arizona State Chapter – Robbins Butte Dove Hunt for Families
Arizona Wheelin’ Sportsmen partnered with the Arizona Department of Fish and Game for a family and handicapped dove hunt. Volunteers provided breakfast pastries and a lunch for all workers and attendees, and three families and three disabled hunters attended for a total of 22 people.
“Our R3 work is something we try to implement at every event we participate in, from our JAKES camp in the spring, to our youth and Wheelin sportsman dove hunts in the fall and everything in between,” said the Chapter president. of the State of Arizona. . “Our chapters have towed our ‘JAKES take aim’ trailer across the state for use at outdoor shows, youth events and hunts. We talk about R3 at all of our turkey call and hunt banquets and seminars, our water catchment projects and just about everything the Arizona State Chapter is involved in.”
The Gator Gobblers host three youth, three women’s, and two college hunting weekends throughout the year, exclusively for new hunters. The chapter has a dedicated group of volunteers to help guide, four certified range instructors for the shooting range, two biologists to help educate new hunters on the game, and a full team of cooks that keeps everyone well fed. Just last year, the chapter had a total of 103 new hunters participating in its hunts.
“We are honored to receive an award of this caliber as our chapter strives to uphold the motto of ‘Recruit, Retain, Reactivate,’” said Missie Schneider, president of the Gator Gobblers Chapter. “The Gator Gobblers host several guided outreach hunts each year that focus on recruiting new youth, female, and college hunters. We all share a passion for the outdoors and pass that passion on to others. What we get is a sense of accomplishment seeing the smiles of those new hunters and knowing that the legacy of hunting will continue for years to come. The most rewarding aspect is that the children we mentor become mentors.”
“Whether they are youth, adults or others from non-traditional and underserved backgrounds, introducing people from all walks of life to the hunting and outdoor community is integral to our mission,” said NWTF Co-Executive Director , Kurt Dyroff. “We are thankful for our chapters that keep their events engaging and fun. We are proud to honor these chapters with R3 Awards for their great work.”
About the National Wild Turkey Federation
Since 1973, the National Wild Turkey Federation has invested more than half a billion dollars in wildlife conservation and has conserved or improved more than 22 million acres of critical wildlife habitat. The organization continues to advance wildlife conservation, forest resiliency, and robust recreational opportunities across the US by working beyond borders at the landscape scale.
2023 is the 50th of the NWTF he anniversary and an opportunity to push the organization’s mission into the future while honoring its rich history. for his 50 he 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 the people of NWTF; and raise $5 million to build a $50 million endowment for the future. Find out how you can help us achieve these lofty goals.