Monday, March 10, 2008

Outdoors with Big Mike: The NWTF Convention

Outdoors with Big Mike has been absent lately since deer season has closed and Turkey season is not in. However, I have been very busy with outdoor stuff this month. Just this past week, my wife, Bev, and I attended the NWTF annual convention in Atlanta, Ga. NWTF stands for the National Wild Turkey Federation, and this organization has over 550,000 members and is one of the strongest Conservation organizations financially.
To understand what the NWTF has done you must know where it started. When first formed, the number of wild turkeys was down to around 1,000,000 birds nationwide. Today, there are over 7,000,000 and more states than ever have a huntable population of these magnificent birds. Now that we have this good number of birds, we are changing our focus from restocking to maintaining the current levels. Also, the NWTF has three other organizations that promote the outdoors. The first is the JAKES program for the kids, then there is the WITO for women in the outdoors, then there is the Wheeling Sportsmen for the handicapped hunters. It has been said that we are about and in this particular order, God, Country, Family, & Conservation, and this makes me particularly proud to be a member and the current Alabama State President. Hunting turkeys is what brings us together, but the love for God,country and family is what makes us strong.
The convention was just great. Thursday night, we were entertained by Darrly Singletary, Rett Atkins, and then a show by Tracy Lawrence. What a night, and hats off to these entertainers. Rett Atkins is currently writing some country songs about hunting and sang a couple for us that night. I predict that these will be huge and will be top songs sometimes in the next 18 months. Friday night we had a band called the blue tones and they were very good. This was also the auction night and all kinds of things were auctioned off as well as a silent auction, and a raffle. I actually won one of the raffles and got a turkey walking stick, a folding chair, a watch, an umbrella, a suitcase, a knife set, a cutlery set, pruning shears, a saw, an afghan and a set of hearing protection. I may have even gotten my $250.00 worth, as this is what I invested in the raffle. I also had a chance on several guns and a Bad Boy Buggy, but did not win any of these, but if I had, the $250.00 would have been a great bargain. Saturday night was awards night and we had a good meal followed by a show by Lori Morgan. It too was just great, and Bev and I enjoyed it very much.
The convention also had a sports show that had over 600 booths with all kinds of outdoor stuff and all kinds of hunting celebrities. There was also the Gran National turkey calling contest, and this is for all ages as they have different competition for different ages. If you want to know what a turkey sounds like, you need to see this show. I am amazed at how good those callers are. They truly are professionals.

While at convention, I got to meet some very nice people.

In the photos you can see me with Wayne LaPierre who is the CEO of the National Rifle Association and Tony Markis who is the host of the great TV show "Under Wild Skies".
In above photo you can see me with Michael Waddell who is the most popular outdoor celebrity going right now in my opinion. I am glad to tell you that he is just as nice and friendly as he appears on TV. I was very impressed by how down to earth he was.
I also have a photo(above) with me talking with Harold Knight and David Hale of Knight and Hale calls. They too were just as nice as people get, and I have been told that they are very strong in their faith.

Above is a photo of me with Rob Keck who is the CEO of the NWTF. This was my first opportunity to meet so many people in the outdoor show business, and the thing that I came away with was that without exception, they were all the kinds of people I would take fishing.(That is a compliment) There were others that I met but did not get a photo of. Ronny "Cuz" Strickland, Eddie Salter, Mat Morrett, Will Primos, Mike Pentacost, and the list just goes on and on. I also got to see Mr. Earl Groves who is the treasure of the NWTF, and also used to hunt in our area. He in fact knew my late father-in-law and several others in the Beatrice, Al area. Mr. Tom Kelly who is a great author of outdoor books was there and I purchased one of his books, "The Tenth Legion". If you really want to know and understand this hunting way of life, get and read this book. If you are a hunter, you will really enjoy it, and it should be required reading of all new hunters.

If you have never been to a NWTF convention, I would encourage you to consider this. Next year and for the next 6 years we will be holding the convention back in Nashville, Tn and I am planning on being a part of them. Next year I want to take David, my son, as I know he would have had a great time seeing all of the hunting people and hunting stuff. This is a family affair and something to see. Please join us next year in Nashville. For more information, go to the NWTF.org and you can read all about this one and the next one. If you are not a member of the NWTF, I encourage you to consider joining, so that we can continue to promote not only the wild turkey, but God,country and family as well. I can not think of a better organization for you to join.

Mike

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