NWTF banquet to support conservation mission

Dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of our hunting heritage, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), a non-profit national organization, focuses on upland wildlife habitat conservation in North America. Locally, the Delaware chapters have spent close to $35,000 on habitat improvement projects, more than $42,000 on education programs and literature, and $11,418 on wild turkey research.

Next weekend, NWTF Lower Delaware Chapter will host the 19th Annual Hunting Heritage Banquet, inviting the public to attend and learn more about the organization.

“It’s really fun,” said Chapter President Stacie Street of the banquet. “You definitely find out what the organization is about, you find out what we do in the organization, and that’s when you really meet a lot of new members at once. You get to see how everybody works together and how everybody is just so nice and greets you with open arms.”

The banquet will be held on Saturday, Feb. 21, at the Millsboro fire hall. Doors will open at 5 p.m., with dinner beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Those who attend will be able to bid on silent and live auction items, as well as take part in raffles.

“We have different games and raffles going on,” explained Street. “We have 10 guns on sportsman raffle this year.”

Two of the guns being raffled off at the banquet are the NWTF’s Gun of the Year — a 2015 Benelli Montefeltro 12-gauge — and a 2015 Mossberg Flex 500 combo 12-gauge.

Street said there will be approximately $10,000 worth of auction items, including a NWTF Big Green Egg Grill, a sterling silver sapphire pendant and necklace, 12-piece cookware set, framed art and more, provided by the national office.

Those who wish to attend the banquet have a number of options when it comes to purchasing tickets. For $70, a single individual will be able to attend the dinner and receive a year of NWTF membership; for $100, a couple will receive dinner and one membership.

Those 17 or younger may attend for $30, while receiving a (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship) JAKES membership. Dinner for visiting current MWTF members costs $30. For $35, those who cannot attend the banquet may renew their membership.

A couple may also attend as a sponsor for $285, which includes dinner for the pair, sponsor membership, a NWTF 2015 sponsor gift, $600 in sportsman raffle tickets, sponsor-only gun drawing, tax deduction, sponsor pin, decal, membership card, recognition at the banquet, six issues of Turkey Country magazine, NWTF sponsor hat and NWTF sponsor knife.

Those who pay $800 to attend will be recognized as corporate sponsors and receive one sponsor membership, six regular memberships and eight dinners, along with all the gifts received by sponsor members, and $800 in sportsman raffle tickets. For an additional $100 or $150, corporate sponsors may receive $200 or $400 worth of sportsman raffle tickets, respectively.

Membership benefits include a one-year subscription to Turkey Country magazine, exclusive access to state wild turkey forecast information, exclusive discounts on products and services such as travel and vehicles, and more.

“We’d love to have more active members to bring more to the table to support our mission,” said Street, noting that the organization’s biggest mission right now is “save the habitat. Save the hunt.”

According to the NWTF’s website, “When the NWTF was founded in 1973, there were approximately 1.5 million wild turkeys in North America. After 40 years of dedicated work, that number hit a historic high of almost 7 million turkeys.”

However, the group said that in more years, turkey populations have been declining.

“We are at a critical juncture in the future of wildlife habitat conservation and the preservation of our hunting heritage… Hunting and habitat go hand-in-hand. We can’t have quality hunting without quality wildlife habitat.

“And the past has proven we won’t have sustainable wildlife habitat unless hunters are involved. Hunters pay for 80 percent of the budgets for state wildlife agencies, which drive the research and work to restore essential habitat for game and non-game species. We could sit idle and watch fields go fallow and our hunting rights crumble, or we can begin saving our lifestyle now.”

Through the “Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.” initiative, NWTF is committed to raising $1.2 billion to conserve or enhance more than 4 million acres of essential upland wildlife habitat, create 1.5 million hunters and open access to 500,000 acres for hunting, shooting and outdoor enjoyment.

“That’s our biggest goal right now,” said Street.

Street said the Lower Delaware Chapter also does education outreach programs to promote and inform the public about the organization.

In April, they will host a sporting clay event, followed by a youth sporting events for JAKES (which is dedicated to informing, educating and involving youth in wildlife conservation and the wise stewardship of natural resources), and a Women in the Outdoors event in October.

“We pretty much have an event every two to three months,” said Street, noting that the chapter currently has 12 active members who meet once a month. “We’re always planning for those. We’re always talking about how we can improve.”

Street said she became involved in the organization after attending a sporting show in Harrington two years ago.

“They were offering — and they’re still offering — if you have a $35 membership, you get a $25 gift card to Bass Pro Shop. So, technically, you’re only paying $10 for your membership,” she said. “Not only that, but they were the only group that had a women-in-the-outdoors event, and I thought that was awesome.”

Street said the Women in the Outdoors event is a wonderful program NWTF offers that many organizations do not.

“Not everybody offers opportunities for women to get into the outdoors. Women don’t get the opportunity to go out and hunt, like men do. For the NWTF to acknowledge that says a lot about the organization. And to have a program for women to get educated and go out into the field safely is so important.”

Having herself become active in the organization two years ago, Street said she loves NWTF and hopes others will join to help make a positive impact in conserving the wild turkey and preserving the hunting heritage.

“I love being a member, because you’re not just a number. People know who you are, and they care about what you’re bringing to the table. Everybody is so friendly. I’ve not met one person who doesn’t greet you with open arms.”

For more information on the Lower Delaware Chapter of NWTF, or to purchase tickets for the banquet, contact Stacie Street at (302) 381-9354 or email staciestreet587@hotmail.com. The Chapter’s Facebook page can be found by visiting, www.facebook.com/pages/NWTF-Lower-Delaware/485577614841513?ref=br_tf. For more information on NWTF, visit www.nwtf.org.