Continuing with a recap of my trip to Nashville for the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) National Convention and Sport Show, we pick up on Saturday morning.
After being in the Pennsylvania hospitality suite late Friday night, I slept in slightly on Saturday morning. When I woke up, I showered and got dressed before heading down to find breakfast. I settled on the “Marketplace” shop because they had a sign for breakfast sandwiches. However, I had to wait in line because they also had Starbucks coffee products (I don’t drink coffee). After getting my sandwich I headed up to the Watering Hole to find a table to sit and eat at. I spotted Mark Hatfield, who is the director of conservation services for the NWTF, and I recognized him from the Zoom meetings that I was on as part of the Superfund Work Group last year.
So, I asked if I could sit down to eat my breakfast, which he said yes to and introduced me to Hannah Plumpton, the head game bird biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. They were both waiting for the NWTF Technical Committee meeting to begin in a little while. The Technical Committee is made up of game bird biologists from many states along with NWTF conservation staff.
Mark got a phone call and had to go get something ready before the meeting, so I talked with Hannah about her job and how turkeys are doing in North Carolina. I shared that I went to college for Wildlife Management and have my master’s degree in biology.
After sharing this we started swapping stories of being seasonal field technicians in different states and dealing with terrible work trucks and getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. With a few stories swapped, another state biologist came up to the table and started talking to Hannah before introducing himself to me as the Tennessee head bird biologist. It was about time for the Technical Committee meeting to begin so they said goodbye and headed off.
I went upstairs to a gathering for upper-level donors. Upper-level donors are anyone who gives (or in my case) commits to giving a set amount of money to the organization within a specific timeframe. The first “level” is the $5,000-mark. This is money that is donated to NWTF without anything coming back in return, so raffle tickets do not count in calculating this because you get a ticket in exchange for your donation. In-kind gifts, such as the wine rack I made and donated, count towards that life-giving total based on what the item sells for if auctioned. I had already hit halfway to the first step and talked to Paul, who is the Director of Development for the northeast states, about getting to the Silver Life membership level while doing the Pub Crawl on Wednesday night.
On Friday at lunch, he brought me a commitment form that said that I pledged to hit the mark of Silver Life member within four years. This would require roughly $500 each year to hit the mark. By signing the commitment form, I was invited to the gathering Saturday morning. While there, I got to network and meet people from across the country.
After the upper-level gathering, I hit the sport show briefly before going to the Hunt luncheon. Once at the luncheon, I wandered around the tables of silent auction items and looked at the different raffles they had going on. I settled on a raffle for a Savage Axis rifle and bought a chance for it.
As the lunch continued, I kept my eyes on the silent auction items online and right before they closed the auction I bid on a strutting turkey sculpture. I was the high bidder and after a few minutes I got the confirmation email so I could go over and get my sculpture off the table. After lunch, I carried my sculpture back to my room and laid down to relax for a little while.
Saturday night was the Grand National Dinner, where the best auction items are sold along with crazy raffle games. The hype item of the convention was the Mr. Fox vest from Mossy Oak, the same vest that people lined up overnight to be able to buy one of only 400 being sold in Nashville. For the Grand National auction, Mossy Oak donated vest #5 (only 1,944 were numbered) and got call makers from across the country to fill the vest with their custom calls. Going into the dinner, there were murmurs of someone willing to spend $15,000 on the vest at auction so when the auctioneer started everyone was a little giddy. It didn’t take long for the bids to exceed $20,000 and then $25,000, and then $30,000! The high bidder bought the vest for $31,000! There was a long round of applause when the auctioneer closed the item out.
When the dinner was over and the auction ended, then we were entertained with a concert by country music artist Riley Green. The concert was awesome as he was someone that has had a few hit songs but they were spaced out enough to forget he sang all of them, so every time they started another song it was, “Oh yeah, I forgot he sang this one too!” Once they finished their set, I said goodnight and safe travels to the other New York volunteers that I knew, headed back to my room and packed my stuff for our 6:00AM departure for the 14-hour drive back to Chenango County.