The members of the Arkansas Tech University- National Wildlife Turkey Federation have a unique way of spending their Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Imagine waking up to the dark starry sky, rushing to beat a hunter that is after the same bird as you. You wait until it’s the perfect amount of sunlight to locate that 4-year-old male turkey. He gobbles a long way off, and you start hiking after him. You sneak along the dewy green grass trying not to spook any turkeys near. You spot a tree that’s perfect for the day’s hunt, set your gun in your lap and cover every inch of skin that could possibly make you visible. Easing your call out of your vest, you try and be as discreet as you ever have. You’re ready for that big gobbler to sound off once more.
You yelp like a female turkey a few times: Gobble, gobble, gobble. It’s the best thing you’ve heard all year. You feel your heart shake due to it beating so hard. You catch a glimpse of that bulging red head and you start trembling. Each time he gobbles, as he gets closer, you feel it in your chest; you can’t understand how that gobble isn’t shaking the leaves off the trees. Praying he comes close enough to shoot, you gently ease your gun up to shooting position. The big tom turkey lurks in the thicket nearly 25 yards away, and you have promised yourself when he clears that brushy areas, he’s yours. He takes his last gobble as a 4-year-old turkey.
All you see is this huge bird flopping on the ground just steps away. You jump up off the tree you’ve been sitting next to for the past few hours to look at the prize you’ve just won.
This is how NWTF students spend their weekend, waiting for that turkey.
“Turkey hunting is something I was introduced to as a kid and have been addicted ever since,” said Brad Pike, fisheries and wildlife biology major from Mabelvale. Brad is the former president of the Arkansas Tech University chapter of the National Wildlife Turkey Federation.
Tech’s chapter of NWTF has existed since 2013. There are about 20 members every semester here at Arkansas Tech University. According to the NWTF mission statement, they are dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of the hunting heritage. NWTF gives hunters the opportunity to save the habitat for turkeys across America, so the turkey population will continue to grow, and they can still enjoy the hunt.
“By the early 1900s, turkeys had been eliminated from large areas of the state. Regulations protecting turkeys were implemented, but turkey numbers continued to decrease. Turkeys probably reached their lowest point in history during the 1930s,” said the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Since 1973, when NWTF was founded, they have conserved over 350,000 acres of land, invested more than $15.5 million, spent more than $500,000 on conservation education projects for women and youth and facilitated the acquisition of over 2,000 acres of public hunting land and improved habitat on over 30 Wildlife Management Areas. The NWTF’s 10-year initiative is to conserve and enhance 4 million acres of critical upland habitat, recruit 1.5 million hunters and open access to 500,000 additional acres for hunting, according to the NWTF website.
With only being around for a few years, this organization on Tech campus has done several community projects. They hold trash pickups and habitat improvement projects with the National Wildlife Turkey Federation and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. They also volunteer time during the youth hunts to take young children hunting. They share the passion they have for turkey hunting with the children, hoping that one day the children will love it just as much as they do.
Recently, there has been a new ATUNWTF president that has taken office: Trey Broker, fisheries and wildlife agriculture major from Lee’s Summit, Missouri. He is “anxious to be a good leader in helping make Arkansas turkey hunting better every year.”
“My goal as president would be to raise money and help make the turkey a more populous species here in Arkansas,” Broker said. In February of 2017, the ATU-NWTF held their once a year banquet in order to raise money for the conservation and habitat for Arkansas turkeys. With over 60 people attending the banquet, they raised over $5,000.
The NWTF club wants other college students at Tech to join and help save the Arkansas turkey.
“Joining the ATU-NWTF chapter was a great way for me to surround myself with likeminded individuals interested in turkey hunting, conservation and the preservation of our hunting heritage,” former president Brad Pike said. The ATU-NWTF chapter revolves around connecting and exposing more people to the opportunities, experiences and heritage that hunting and conservation must offer.
Broker said, “Save the habitat, save the hunt.”
To find out more information about ATU-NWTF, go online to their Facebook page, “ATU-NWTF.”