Hunters that help
Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 6, 2008
THE SELMA TIMES-JOURNAL
Conservation is just as important to responsible hunters as getting a prize kill.
The members of the National Wild Turkey Federation strive to be leaders in the education of hunters and the preservation of the animals’ natural habitat.
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That is evidenced by a more than 500 percent population growth of turkeys in the U.S. since 1973 and double the amount of hunters in that same time.
“I’ve been affiliated with a lot of organizations, but these guys really have their nuts and bolts together,” said Selma resident Charlie Duckett, a nine-year member of the state NWTF board. “They really spend the money in the places where it needs to be spent.”
Selma’s chapter of the NWTF will hold its 17th annual meeting and banquet at 6 p.m. on Friday at Lions’ Park on Dallas Avenue.
Duckett said the group has won the Golden Gobbler award all 17 years, which recognizes chapters that raise the most money for the NWTF’s efforts.
Selma donates 20 percent of its funds to land purchases in the state, most recently, 1,038 acres in the Lauderdale Wildlife Management Area. Nationally, $258 million have been used to conserve more than 13.1 million acres of wildlife habitat, according to nwtf.org.
The only drawback for sportsmen here is there aren’t many places to hunt in their immediate back yard.
“Our area is right on the edge (of Dallas County) as you’re going into Perry County,” Duckett said. “It’s a big area. There’s just nothing in Dallas County as far wildlife management, a national forest or anything else.”
Several hundred people attend the event each year in Selma, and the support is a major reason the local chapter has gained national recognition.
“We’re one of only a few out of 2,300 national chapters to receive the Golden Gobbler award,” said Jere Peak, who is the chairman of the national board of directors.
Peak said the NWTF makes efforts to ensure the sport is as inclusive as possible.
“We sponsor the JAKES (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge. Ethics and Sportsmanship) program to get younger hunters involved; Women in the Outdoors to get women involved and Wheeling Sportsmen to include hunters with disabilities.”
“Preserving the right”
As chairman of the national board of the NWTF, Peak sees firsthand the triumphs and challenges of turkey hunters.
One of biggest obstacles is getting young hunters involved in the sport. There is currently no age restriction for turkey hunters in Alabama.
“Countrywide, our focus is on trying to encourage states where the age to hunt is 12 and older to reduce the age limit so fathers and sons and mothers and daughters can go into the woods together,” Peak said.
Peak went on to say that “finding more places to hunt and preserving the right to hunt” are major issues.
Because of that, the NWTF is instrumental in land preservation and education. Everything from land management to support for new hunters to basic information about turkeys is provided through the organization.
It is the NWTF’s ultimate goal to help animals and the environment instead of destroying them.
“Hunters are, in fact, the greatest conservationists and stewards of land because of the respect they have for the land and the animals they hunt,” Peak said.