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The Upper Minnesota River alley Chapter of the National Wildlife Turkey Federation (NWTF) is going strong. But it could be stronger if there were more land available for hunting.
Nearly 250 Minnesota River Valley hunting enthusiasts gathered for the 17th annual Hunting and Heritage dinner at the Prairie’s Edge Casino Resort to take part in a social gathering and festivities that included a live auction, by Fitzner Auctioneers, and a raffle with well over a dozen raffle items.
Chapter President John Krogstad said that the local outfit has maintained a strong base of leadership and support through an active membership of roughly 100. And according to National Wildlife Turkey Federation Regional Director Todd Fairbanks, compared to the other 32 chapters under his direction––which run from Thief River Falls to Worthington on up the minnesota river and into eastern North Dakotas––there are none better.
“That chapter is definitely my biggest chapter in my region,” said Fairbanks. “They consistently have anywhere form 225 to 260 people at their annual heritage dinners. It’s a solid chapter with great committee members.”
Founded in 1973, the NWTF is headquartered in Edgefield, South Carolina and has local chapters in every state.
The NWTF is dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of the nation’s hunting heritage.
Through vital partnerships with state, federal and provincial wildlife agencies, the NWTF has helped restore wild turkey populations throughout North America — from a mere 30,000 in the entire United States to more than 7 million across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
According to the NWTF, organizational goals of volunteers and partners today include three initiatives: the conservation and enhancement of 4 million acres of critical upland and wildlife habitat, the creation of 1.5 million new hunters and open access to 500,000 new acres for hunting and other outdoor recreation.
Turkey season in Minnesota this year begins April 16 and runs about six weeks. Restrictions limit each hunter to five days of hunting and a single turkey annually.
While the annual meeting is the chapters biggest gathering of the year, Krogstad said that the local chapter also typically holds a ‘Jake’s hunt’ on the first day of the season as well as Archery in School––headed by local NWTF members and YME teachers, Ben Lecy and Dean Baldry.
Otherwise, money raised by the chapter goes into a state superfund that doles out the cash for projects based on written proposals. just recently Krogstad submitted a proposal, which included $5,120 from the superfund and a $6,800 match from the DNR, to plant a total of five acres of woodlands over 32,000 acres of property in the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management District.
Threat to a lifestyle
During Saturday’s heritage dinner, Fairbanks said that despite strong passions for hunting, the life-style is in danger of being lost under present trend lines.
“The number one reason that people quit hunting is the fact they don’t have a place to hunt,” said Fairbanks. “Every day 6,600 acres of public hunting land are lost in the United states, which is comparable to the size of Yellow Stone National park in one year.”
As far as private land is concerned, individuals can get permission from property owners, but in terms of broadening the interest in hunting or hunting tourism, those who live away from rural regions may not have the relationships to obtain easy access.
To combat the change, Fairbanks said that the solution is to simply get more people involved in the mission. “This needs to be a collaboration of all of our conservation groups to hop on board on this initiative,” he said. “By no means is this going to happen just by the actions of the turkey federation.”
Today NWTF volunteers and partners are committed to three main organizational goals: the conservation and enhancement of 4 million acres of critical upland and wildlife habitat, the creation of 1.5 million new hunters and open access to 500,000 new acres for hunting and other outdoor recreation.