Fundraising banquets key to having turkeys in north Louisiana

There have been a few things that have dictated the direction my life would take. First off, that 10-inch bass I caught down on Molido behind my boyhood home signaled the start of my love for chunking and winding a rod and reel after bass.

When the first wood duck came barreling down through the flooded timber intent on landing on the water and my old 12-gauge double barrel dropped him at my feet, I fell in love with duck hunting.

There was that time before the duck and the bass conquests happened, when our up-the-road neighbor, Bud Pennington, pointed out a lump on a limb where his squirrel dog was barking and bawling at the base of the tree. He explained that that lump was no knot; it was a fox squirrel. My aim was true and as my first-ever squirrel hit the ground and thus began my lifetime love of the sport of chasing October squirrels.

Continuing on my trek through my bank of memories, the yapping and howling of a pack of beagles signaled that a deer was headed in my direction. I was on my first deer hunt in Claiborne Parish near Summerfield when a 10-point buck burst from cover to the pipeline I was watching. Slinging buckshot in his direction, I watched him tumble and once again, I had found yet another sport that had me in its grip.

Bass, ducks, squirrels and bucks were all put on the back burner when I stumbled on the sport that has captivated me like no other. The date was April 13, 1992 when I accepted an invitation to chase turkeys in Alabama. To be honest, I really didn’t care about leaving the bream beds until my outdoor writer friend, John Phillips, tossed out nuggets, like free air fare, a shotgun,

a guide and an array of camo clothing that I decided the bream could wait a week or so while I took advantage of the opportunity to do something I had never tried, and that was to give spring turkey hunting a try.

When my guide, Skinny Hallmark, called to a gobbler on the roost and I heard him gobble, spit and drum as he strutted toward where I sat, no bass, duck, squirrel or deer could make my heart thump like mine was doing as the big gobbler stepped in front of my gun and I got him.

I determined then and there that I may never kill another one but I was determined to learn all I could about wild turkeys, how to call them and how to be sure there would be turkeys around when I wanted to hunt.

This led me to become a member of the North Central Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and to become involved in promoting the annual banquet our chapter had each year. I was impressed with the fact that the funds generated at the annual banquet are one of the main reasons we have wild turkeys to hunt in Louisiana today.

Last year I attended the banquet but attendance and involvement had been severely curtailed by the Covid pandemic that was successful in shutting down a host of worthy activities. The banquet our chapter held a couple of weeks ago was like a breath of fresh air. Whereas fewer than 100 were at the banquet a year ago, I scanned the crowd of some 250-275 enthusiastic hunters who bid on auction items to the tune of raising in the neighborhood of $50,000, funds that will go to activities favoring wild turkeys.  

“This was a building year for us, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the turnout and interest shown this year” said chapter president Mike Rainwater, “and we hope to be able to do even more in coming years.”

For the sake of these special birds, I sincerely hope so.

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