NWTF hosting banquet June 10 at Civic Center

By JOSEPH ELERSON, News-Telegram Sports Writer

June 1, 2008 - For outdoor enthusiast, a new group known as the Longbeards Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation is scheduled to start up in Hopkins County.

Joining more than 580,000 members in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and 14 other countries, the chapter will host a barbecue dinner, raffle and auction at 6 p.m. June 10 at the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center.

"We had a couple of guys that were interested in starting a program here after attending some events in other towns," said Shawn Roberts, NWTF regional director of Interstate 20 north for the State of Texas. "This event is a fundraising event were we raise the funds to do all of the other things that we do within the organization."

The NWTF, headquartered in Edgefield, S.C., was founded in 1973 and is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit conservation and education organization dedicated to conserving wild turkeys and preserving hunting traditions.

The organization hosts a number of different programs for people of all ages, such as JAKES (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship), WITO (Women in the Outdoors) and Wheelin' Sportsmen - which provides all disabled people the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors through local chapter events nationwide.

With JAKES, the group is divided into two sections with a 12-and-under group and Xtreme JAKES for teens 13-17.

"With these programs, we will have fishing, shotgun shooting, canoeing, kayaking, archery and all kinds of outdoor program that they may not be able to do if they did not have a program like this," Roberts said.

With each of the groups, the hunts are divided up among age groups and also have to be scheduled with the organization.

"We also have individual hunts on some of the trip and the others are done round robin. That means that you have to go through pre-registration and can pick from 10-or-12 hunts and then you get to do four-or-five the day of the event. We do dutch oven cooking, wagon driving, horse back riding, shotgun, defensive gun shooting, cowboy gun shooting and archery."

Roberts said the NWTF also helps disabled veterans and needy families along with a scholarship of $500 for a graduating senior. The scholarship then goes up to $1,000 at the state level and $10,000 at the national level.

"We do a program called Wounded Warrior Hunts for disabled veterans and we also give away frozen turkeys to needy families around Thanksgiving and Christmas," he said. "That is our Turkey Hunters Care program, where your chapter can give up to $500 in turkeys and they are reimbursed throughout the company up to $250,000."

With the banquet, Roberts said participants will have a fun time learning about the organization and also taking part in the raffle and auction.

"This is a lot of fun and I have never seen too many people leave the event that have not enjoyed themselves," Roberts said. "What we have to do after that is have a hunting heritage banquet once a year and then we can implement programs such as JAKES, WITO and our Wheelin' Sportsmen programs."

Groups of eight-or-more people can purchase a gold sponsor table for $1,000 and will receive a handgun at the event. For corporations to sponsor a table, they can pay $550 for a chance at winning a handgun.

"This banquet is to get people to come and have a good time and possibly become a member of the group. We would like for them to pre-register for the event so they can get in on the door prizes. The auction will have pictures, handguns, antler tables and lamps that will be given away."

For more information, contact Roberts at 903-573-4570 or TPWD Wildlife biologist Trevor Tanner at 903-348-4657. You can reach Tanner by e-mail at trevor.tanner@tpwd.state.tx.us.

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