Outdoor Chenango: New And Old Faces, All Friends: Part 1
Published: March 1st, 2023
By: Eric Davis

Outdoor Chenango: New and old faces, all friends: Part 1

As I wrote in my column last week, from Wednesday through Sunday I was in Nashville, Tennessee for the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) National Convention and Sport Show. The convention was the official kickoff of the 50th anniversary of NWTF as an organization and you could feel the hype building the entire time. I will break up my trip into multiple columns so I can better detail how things went instead of cramming it into one column.

I flew out of Syracuse at 6:00 and landed at the Nashville airport around 10:30 Central Time (11:30 Eastern) on Wednesday morning. I got checked into my room and called my friend and Regional Director. He invited me to go to lunch with him and a few other NWTF staff members. We met at the Jack Daniels Restaurant. After lunch, I was asked to help bring some donated merchandise from my friend’s room to the rooms used to stage the auction items for the different lunch and dinner functions. One of the items was a rolling wine rack that I built (I took up woodworking during COVID) and a case of mixed Finger Lakes wines to go with it.

Wednesday night was the Pub Crawl, which was held inside the Gaylord Opryland resort. There are 3 bar/restaurants that were rented out and participants could move between them as they liked on top of having live music in the corridor outside of the bars. In the first bar, I got food at the buffet and found a table of members of the New York Board of Directors and their spouses.

After socializing with them for a bit, I got up and started to wander a bit. I recognized a face by the bar so I went and said hello to Kamara, a volunteer from Oklahoma who is on the Super Fund Work Group with me. We chatted for a few minutes before she went to find a friend. As the night went on, I got to meet and talk to both Jason and Kurt, the new co-CEOs of the organization. By the end of the Pub Crawl at 10:00 PM, I was ready for bed, so I headed back to my room.

Thursday morning brought the State Chapter President breakfast. Here I got to meet other state chapter presidents, including Keith from Massachusetts who has been on multiple Zoom meetings with the New England states. When breakfast ended, we went to the Rendezvous which served as the opening of the convention. Each state chapter president carried their state flag to the front of the auditorium before taking our seats. The National Board of Directors President Bryan Perry got things going by bringing up retiring CEO Beckie Humphries and congratulating her on a career that spanned over 40 years in conservation. Then a video played from Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, also congratulating Beckie and to announce a donation of $500,000 to NWTF for the 50th anniversary with at least $250,000 of that money having to be spent on wild turkey research. After that, Dr. Mike Chamberlain, one of the top turkey researchers in the country, gave a presentation of the state of wild turkey research and what he thinks needs to be done moving forward in regards to research topics.

Finally, Fred Bird, who runs the NWTF podcast came out on stage with two other speakers and held a roundtable discussion with them on turkey hunting, NWTF, and moving forward.

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In the afternoon, all of the state chapter presidents were invited to the Business Meeting where the National Board president, the co-CEOs, and a few other staff members gave presentations, discussed the state of NWTF, and things that are coming on the horizon. We broke into our regions and had 15 minutes to brainstorm ways to help reach the different goals that have been put out for the 50th anniversary. Then we shared our ideas with the other regions. The meeting wrapped up with details about the upcoming National Leadership Conference in June.

The Kickoff Party on Thursday was ‘70s themed to commemorate NWTF being founded in 1973. So, there was lots of tie dye clothing, bell bottoms, and long hair wigs in the crowd. We had 2 tables reserved for the NY State Board and their spouses but we got to mingle with people from all over the country before an Eagles tribute band took the stage. After the dinner, I changed my clothes and went to the Pennsylvania State Board’s hospitality suite where I caught up with some people I knew and met several volunteers from PA. Around midnight, I went back to my room to get some sleep before facing Friday.