By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
Habitat restoration, youth mentorship and improved access to hunting opportunities top the list of goals for a group of area hunters who’ve founded a new local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. They plan to introduce it to northeast Mississippi next Thursday night.
The Hill Country Strutters’ first hunting heritage banquet will be at Furniture Market Building 5 on Coley Road in Tupelo on April 5. The doors open at 6, dinner starts at 7 and live and silent auctions will follow. The Daisy/NWTF BB shooting trailer as well as other attractions for young and old alike will be on hand for the event. Dinner will be catered by Rob Lesley of Romie’s Grocery and will follow a wild game theme.
Members of the founding committee of the Hill Country Strutters hail from several counties around the northeast corner of the state and say, though the first event is in Tupelo, they want to include outdoor enthusiasts of every stripe from Aberdeen to Iuka, from Tremont to Ashland and from all points between and beyond.
Quality outdoor programs
“The banquet funds go to support the quality programs of the NWTF,” Tim Weston, a committee member from Fulton, said. The NWTF is the nation’s largest hunting conservation group and funds a variety of programs geared toward introducing youngsters to the outdoors, toward connecting women who hunt with their peers all across the continent, and toward helping hunters with physical challenges find new and exciting opportunities outdoors.
“We hope to bring more of these programs to northeast Mississippi,” Weston said, “programs that not only benefit turkeys but all wildlife.”
Weston said the group’s youth-oriented program in particular is of interest here. Geared toward hunters younger than 16, the JAKES program, Juniors Acquiring Knowledge Ethics and Sportsmanship, would create opportunities for area youngsters to get outdoors, shoot BB guns, discover archery and learn about nature.
“These are things I took for granted growing up on a farm, but they’re things many kids just don’t get to experience today,” Weston said. Other NWTF programs noted by Weston include conservation programs that pair an NWTF biologist with a landowner to help improve habitat.
“My vision for this year’s banquet is to garner support from every turkey hunter in northeast Mississippi so that we have the largest NWTF banquet in the state in 2012,” Greg Burks, another committee member, said.
Tickets to the event are $50 for individuals, $70 for couples, $10 for those younger than 16 and will be available at the door, or by emailing Burks at GBurks@renasant.com or Weston at email@example.com, or by calling 662-574-3247.