A mentored turkey hunt to be held in Northeast Washington next month filled up faster than you can say “gobble-gobble!”
Last Friday, WDFW opened up registration for 35 beginners to attend a weekend-long late April workshop in Newport and planned to publicize it this week, but word got out about the National Wild Turkey Federation-hosted online sign-up page and the camp filled right up.
It’s a testament to the high interest people have in getting out and learning how to pursue abundant wild turkeys, and part of WDFW efforts to strengthen hunter numbers and get more folks into the outdoors.
“Over the past three years, First Hunt Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation, along with other supporters, have provided mentored opportunity to first-time deer and turkey hunters. Not just a guided hunt, we provide students with the basic skills and tools to prepare for a hunt, harvest an animal, care for the meat and enjoy nature’s bounty,” notes NWTF’s Richard Mann. “It is our hope that this introduction leads to a lifetime of hunting and an appreciation for our natural resources. A harvest, when one is lucky to do so, is just a small part of the entire experience the woods have to offer.”
Mann was recently recognized by NWTF as the national organization’s Mentor of the Year. Other turkey camp participants include the Kalispel Tribe and its Natural Resources Department, Washington Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and Vaagen, a locally owned lumber company.
Part of WDFW’s 25-year strategic plan calls for developing similar recruitment, retention and reactivation, or R3, activities. That effort is being guided by a plan published last June after input from a wide variety of stakeholders including this magazine, so if you’ve got a budding hunter in your family, or know of one interested in learning, keep an eye out for upcoming opportunities.
WDFW last fall hosted a snowy pheasant hunt near St. John on the Palouse and spokeswoman Staci Lehman in Spokane says the agency in planning to put together youth and all-ages ringneck hunts starting this September.
And that mentored deer hunt that Mann mentioned, held on private farmlands in Stevens County to reduce crop depredation by whitetails, has been a great success in its first two years, with a dozen youngsters learning all about the pursuit last year.
Indeed, the camps are meant to be about far more than just the harvest. That’s how Russ McDonald, NWTF Washington state chapter president sees the turkey workshop.
“I think that the camp allows the passing on of the heritage of hunting,” he said. “It isn’t always about that harvest either, it is about the experience. Being able to teach others about the experiences and see those experiences happen while out in the woods. See someone hear that first gobble of a turkey or watch a strutting tom out in a field with the sun hitting; showing off the beautiful colors of a turkey. Watching a person as they take their first harvest. The memories that are made are life-long. Seeing their smiles and reactions is why we do this.”
Across the Columbia, ODFW has a strong and wide-ranging schedule of workshops, family events and hunts throughout the year meant to help newbies take those first steps into the outdoors, including upcoming youth and adult turkey hunting clinics and a chance for kids to hunt on a large ranch near Medford through the spring season.