Feeling so blessed to be part of NWTF event held in Nashville

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The Opryland Hotel in Nashville is a monstrous, breathtakingly beautiful monolith of a complex.

You are given a map of it when you check in. No matter where you want to go, it’s one mile to get there, and getting there involves at least two elevator changes and long, long hikes. It wasn’t until my last day there that I began to form an idea of how to get from one point to another.

Every year, in the middle of February, the National Wild Turkey Federation has its national convention. This year, I was given the huge honor to be able to attend, thanks to the conspiracy hatched by Walt Bingaman, the Regional Director of NWTF and Ralph Martone, current President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of NWTF, along with some others at the Nashville end. It was a tremendous and undeserved honor in every way accorded to me.

I remember clearly the day back in the early 1970s when I noticed a small piece in an outdoor magazine that such a conservation organization was to be formed. I sent in my membership immediately, thinking this would be the place where I could get information on how to hunt turkeys.

So, I was in on this organization, which has bloomed into a premier conservation organization in the nation, from the beginning. Millions of dollars are raised each year that go to the group’s main focus — habitat improvement and creation and research to the good of the resource (the wild turkey) and safety while hunting.

That is why they have adopted the motto “Save The Habitat –Save The Hunt.” All outdoorspersons know that suitable and abundant habitat is the key to healthy and numerous populations of wild things.

I haven’t room in this column to share all the details, but soon I would become the first woman to be placed on the Board of Directors of NWTF. When the state chapter was formed, I was in on the formation meeting held in State College. I held every office in the state chapter including president back in 1980-1982, the first woman to hold that honor. Now, many women are chapter presidents, and many women sit on the national board.

I remember clearly the first few organizational meetings when those few of us who signed up to help gathered around a card table wondering what we should do next. Now the Board meetings of NWTF are held all over the United States, at hunting lodges usually, and I have stories to tell someday about a couple of them that I attended.

I was one of the first women to really break ground for women in hunting and am considered a pioneer by some. It is for this, and really it is because I have managed to outlive most of the other early volunteers.

So what is the point of my self- serving writings here? To declare that I do not deserve such honors. I did nothing out of the ordinary to make NWTF what it is today. Never did I dream I would see the day that the organization would become what it is today: a national savior to wild turkeys all over the country.

Ralph Martone and his wife, Denise, most graciously allowed me to ride to Tennessee in their car and then, once installed in my room, to be my appointed guides for every event. I’m sure Martone was many pounds lighter when it was all over because he hiked many miles pointing me in the right direction and then making sure I safe and sound at night.

It was all such a blessing to me. I was able to visit with quite a few of the hunters I had traveled to hunt with back in the 1970s and 1980s, people whose names you would know if I mentioned them. Tearful reunions some of them were, filled with memories of hunting gobblers in the “old days” when it wasn’t as easy as it is today.

Attending a wonderful church service on Sunday morning, where a young woman who was crippled for life when she fell and landed crosswise on a pitchfork, shared how her life was changed by the way God used the “pitchfork moments” of her life to set her in a new and wondrous direction.

Then a disabled, wheelchair-bound gospel singer named Bradley Walker shared songs of praise for how God has cared for him. By the end of the service we were all crying.

In the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing with you some turkey hunting tips I learned from many of today’s famous turkey hunters who shared their expertise in Nashville. It could make a difference in how we hunt this season.

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