• 79°

NWTF holds banquet

The Selma Blaster Chapter’s Hunting Heritage Banquet on Saturday was a homecoming for National Wild Turkey Federation CEO George Thornton.

He began in the agriculture business in Dallas County in the 1970s and bought a farm just north of Selma in the early 1990s. He is familiar with the area, but with so many friends and acquaintances in one place, Saturday was particularly special.

“It’s just a thrill to see so many friends,” said Thornton. “Over the years, I’ve developed a lot of friends here. It feels a little like coming home again.”

Some 300 members braved nasty weather for good food, an auction and to catch up with old friends.

“It brings a bunch of turkey hunters together. It’s good fellowship,” said Mike Hancock. “Turkey hunters are a special breed. They get to share their stories, and you will never hear more tales than when turkey hunters get together.”

With spring turkey season beginning on Monday, those stories are sure to multiply.

The fundraiser traditionally raises $45-55,000 for the chapter, and 56 percent of the funds go to the state and county levels to help continue conservation efforts. Saturday’s banquet may bring in a little more when all is said and done with a 20 percent attendance increase from last year’s total of 250.

“It’s a good turnout for us,” said banquet director Charles Duckett. “This is a little better number than we had last year. This is an increase.”

The event also saw an increase in youth turnout. Twenty-six JAKES, the NWTF’s term for children under 17, received fishing poles for their attendance. But Duckett was even more excited about another demographic.

“I also see quite a few younger people that are in the 20-30 range. We’re really looking for this as the future of this organization. That makes us feel good.”

Like Duckett, Thornton was particularly excited to see an increased turnout from younger members.

“We think our outreach work has been very successful at creating opportunities to introduce young people to the outdoors,” said Thornton. “That’s a particularly important part of our mission, to pass the hunting heritage along