As I have written in the past, I am a volunteer with the conservation organization known as the NWTF (National Wild Turkey Federation). In high school I helped at the local banquet dinner in Watkins Glen. After college, one of my roommates from college got hired as a Regional Director for the NWTF to cover everything east of Route 81 in New York.
So when I told him that I was moving to Afton so I could go to SUNY Oneonta for my Master’s degree he quickly asked if I could help out with a NWTF chapter he got his brother and cousins to start in Greene. I went to their first meeting of the year to plan their banquet and was introduced to everyone. Within 5 minutes I was voted to be the chapter president. That was 5 years ago.
In those 5 years, our local chapter has done some incredible things. The first year we held a wounded veteran turkey hunt and had two participants. One hunter who lost a leg in Afghanistan was able to harvest his first turkey on the hunt. We held veteran’s turkey hunts for the next few years.
In the fall of 2017, we took five youth hunters on their first waterfowl hunt. Then in 2018 and 2019 we helped contribute to the Chenango County Youth Turkey Hunt put on by Environmental Conservation Officer Brett Armstrong. If COVID-19 had not come along we would have been helping this past spring too.
The ability to hold these events is aided by the Superfund. The Superfund is a dedicated account where money is held that can only be used for specific things, such as outreach events (youth hunts, Wounded Veteran hunts, etc.) and habitat work. Each state chapter of the NWTF has their own Superfund account. The money in the Superfund comes from fundraising events like the banquet dinner. A percentage (around 20%) of the net money raised (money left after paying for all prizes, meals, etc.) gets set into the Superfund where it cannot be touched for any unauthorized use. In 2019, almost $9,000 was spent on outreach events from the Superfund in New York. There also was over $10,000 spent on public land habitat projects out of the Superfund, including projects in Chenango and Cortland Counties.
As COVID-19 hit the country in February and March, the NWTF was gearing up for their busy season. Over 75% of their fundraising events across the national happen from March to June. However, as states began restricting events, the NWTF started to fall behind. At the end of June, they were $10 million behind compared to exactly one year before. This is mainly because they buy about $20 million worth of merchandise that gets distributed to the local banquets. Merchandise like paintings, calls, decoys, and firearms. Without any banquets being held to raise money, the NWTF cannot begin to pay for the merchandise. The NWTF National Board of Directors has issued the “Call for All” initiative to help raise $5 million by the end of August.
In addition to volunteering at the local level, in 2016 I became a member of the New York State Board of Directors (also called the State Chapter). I filled a vacant seat for one year before being voted into a 3-year seat and being nominated as the 2nd Vice President. In 2019 the state chapter president resigned to take a job with NWTF, so I was bumped up to the 1st Vice President position. This past Sunday we held our quarterly meeting and unanimously voted to donate $52,000 to the NWTF Headquarters. We are also asking anyone who is willing to donate to the NWTF to do so.
In addition to this, the State Chapter is having a membership drive combined with a virtual gun bash. Since most banquets were not held, many people’s memberships to NWTF will expire this year. To make it so that does not happen, you can go online and buy a membership and be entered to win multiple firearms. You can also buy additional raffle packages that give you more chances at even more firearms. You can go to www.nwtf.org/events and search by state for the NYS Call for All Gun Blast.
If we cannot help the NWTF in this difficult time, there is a chance that thousands of outreach events across the country will not happen in the future. That is not something that we want to have happen in a time when less people are getting into hunting as it is.