The largest congregation of hunters in Pocahontas County since the first day of buck season converged on the Pocahontas County Opera House Saturday night for the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) annual fundraising banquet and membership drive.
The event included a catered meal and a wide variety of raffles, games and fun activities. An estimated 200 people attended the event.
NWTF Regional Director Bob Farkasovsky described the purpose of the event.
“This is one of our fundraising banquets and also a membership drive,” he said. “The majority of the money that is raised here is put back onto the ground.”
Farkasovsky referred to a NWTF banner, which indicated that the NWTF has invested more than $9.3 million in West Virginia, including more than $1.2 million in research and wildlife habitat enhancement, public land purchases and outreach and education projects.
The regional director said the mission of the NWTF has evolved.
“Right now it is changing,” he said. “Before, it was all about re-introducing turkeys. Now, the turkeys have been re-introduced in 49 states. They’re pretty much self-sufficient. Now, we’re moving on to what we call, ‘save the habitat, save the hunt.’ We’re losing habitat at an alarming rate throughout the whole country, so we’re trying to buy land and do better management practices on what we do have to keep it more viable for wildlife – not only for turkeys but for all wildlife.”
NWTF Regional Wildlife Biologist Cully McCurdy described some NWTF projects in the local area.
“Probably the biggest project was a stewardship project with the Forest Service on Middle Mountain,” he said. “This is the Middle Mountain between Route 92 and Douthard’s Creek. On top of that mountain, we did a stewardship project where there was 120 acres of timber harvested. We created seven different wildlife savannahs, from two-and-a-half acres up to 22 acres, for a total of 49 acres of wildlife openings. We have about 50 of those projects going on nationwide, but that was the first really large stewardship project that we had in West Virginia.”
McCurdy described other NWTF projects on state forest lands.
“We just assisted the West Virginia DNR [Division of Natural Resources] with goods for a seven-acre savannah on Seneca State Forest,” he said. “We paid for the lime, fertilizer and seed for that savannah. While the equipment was still in the woods for the timber sale, they were able to grub the stumps and create this wildlife opening. So, we were able to fill a niche for the DNR to help financially. That was the second project that we’ve done on Seneca.
“We finished two in the last five years on Cal Price State Forest. We actually paid for the stump grubbing and the lime, fertilizer and seed. We have another 12 acres of savannahs that we’re going to assist with on Cal Price, that are just now in the prospectus stage, which means that the timber’s been marked and been sold. That will be completed in the next couple years.”
The biologist described a wildlife savannah.
“Basically, a savannah is a wildlife opening that has scattered hardwood trees, oaks or hickories, within the clearing,” he said. “If you think of an African savannah with the bush and the trees every so often – that same type of setting. We do that to create mast producers with decent shade.”
McCurdy described more projects that are planned on state forests and the Monongahela National Forest. In addition to the habitat projects, the group provides support to the Pocahontas County Archery Team and donates money for a turkey dinner for senior citizens on Thanksgiving.
“We make a donation to McClintic Library for letting us have our meetings there,” he added.
McCurdy takes special pride in is a NWTF scholarship for local students.
“It’s a $750 scholarship annually,” he said. “That one is super special to many people in the Turkey Federation because we voted a few years ago to make that the William Dilley Memorial Scholarship. William left us way too young in life. He was an avid turkey hunter a strong member of the Turkey Federation. So, we give that scholarship annually to a graduating senior to honor William Dilley. He also has a track scholarship in his honor. He just touched so many lives.”
Founded in 1973, the NWTF is dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of America’s hunting heritage. Through partnerships with state, federal and provincial wildlife agencies, the NWTF has helped restore wild turkey populations from just 30,000 in the entire United States to more than seven million across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Membership information can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1-800-THE-NWTF.