By CRISTIN REECE
Once a candidate for this country’s national symbol, the wild turkey is now in the spotlight again — this time as the victim of habitat encroachment.
But Anderson County’s branch of the National Wild Turkey Federation is doing what it can to “save the habitat, save the hunt,” and invites the community to get involved by attending the annual NWTF banquet at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 110 N. Line St. Proceeds from the banquet benefits the state’s repopulation efforts.
“The Federation has actually spent a lot more money in Anderson County than our banquets have ever raised,” local NWTF President Eric Woolverton said. “Between restocking the wildlife to the other youth programs, like the 4-H shooting events — all the money they receive from us, and more, is spent right here in our own back yard.”
Tucker Slack, vice-president of the local branch of NWTF, said the Federation helped stock a number of wild turkeys in Anderson County in 2007.
“Historically, up through probably the early 1900s, Anderson County had a large population of wild turkeys,” Slack said. “But over-hunting — mostly subsistence hunting (hunting for food) through the Great Depression — and habitat encroachment have led to their numbers dwindling quite a bit.
“Now that flock has expanded its boundaries and is thriving.”
According to the Federation’s website, the national nonprofit organization — which reports 2,272 chapters across the nation — is the leader in upland wildlife habitat conservation in North America, and has helped restore wild turkey populations throughout North America — from only 30,000 in the entire U.S. to more than 7 million across the United States, Canada and Mexico. That progress, though, continues to be an uphill battle.
“We’re losing 6,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat every single day to development,” NWTF’s website states. “That’s 2.2 million acres a year, an area the size of Yellowstone National Park. We must make every remaining acre count. And finally, hunters and our hunting rights are under attack. Hunters pay for wildlife and habitat conservation. If we don’t stand our ground today, there is no hope for the future of conservation and hunting.”
Tickets for Saturday’s banquet are $55 a person; $80 a couple; $10 for children. Ticket price includes a barbecue dinner with all the trimmings, chances at numerous raffle and other prizes and bidding opportunities during both live and silent auctions.
Auction items include collectible guns and decorative items; jewelry; furniture; and various gift items and certificates from sponsors of the event.
Woolverton said there are still plenty of tickets left, which can be bought at the door of the event or by calling 903-948-8230 or 409-344-1261.
“It’s a fun, family event that includes some good food, good times and it’s for a good cause,” Woolverton said.