Members gobble up food, auction items at turkey banquet

Published 12:20 am Sunday, March 21, 2010

NATCHEZ — Turkey is quite a commodity, if Thursday night at the Natchez Convention Center is any indication.

Turkey hunting enthusiasts and local businesses made their way to the convention center Thursday for the 18th annual banquet for the Miss-Lou chapter of the Mississippi Wild Turkey Federation.

The banquet included an auction to help raise money for various projects within the federation’s budget, MWTF Senior Regional Director Joe Wood said.

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“Our mission statement is conservation of wild turkey and preservation of the hunting tradition,” Wood said.

“We have about 70 local chapters in Mississippi, almost one per county. The Miss-Lou is one of the oldest chapters in the state, and historically one of the best in the state and nation, as far as participation. There are a lot of people that enjoy the outdoors here, and a lot of hunters concerned about conserving and preserving their hunting rights.”

The primary focus of the federation is turkey habitat conservation, and in 2009, $29,624 was raised for habitat enhancement on public and private lands. That was an expenditure percentage of 34, out of $86,895 raised.

The federation also donates to hunting heritage programs such as 4-H Shooting, which received $3,500 from the federation last year. David Carter, county director of the Adams County Extension Service, which runs 4-H in Natchez, was on hand Thursday to assist with the auction.

“Being with 4-H, I’m just trying to help out,” Carter said. “Outdoors and hunting is a pretty big deal here, and anything we can do to support it, we intend to do so.

“I think (outdoors and hunting) is massively overlooked in the area, not just as a hobby, but as an economic factor.”

As he does at many outdoors banquets in the Miss-Lou area, Redneck Adventures’ Jim Allgood attended Thursday to auction out opportunities to take part in some of the TV show’s activities, like its annual squirrel hunt.

“Those dollars go to these organizations to help spread their conservation of outdoor hunting policies,” Allgood said.

Jay Stewart, an off-and-on member of the federation for the last 15 years, said most people on hand Thursday were serious about the federation’s vision.

“This kind of thing gets people involved in something their passionate about,” Stewart said. “Probably 30 percent of the people here are here for social reasons, but at least two-thirds are avid turkey hunters.

“This helps make people aware of things that can be done to help turkeys and other wildlife by passing beneficial laws and seeing that preservation issues are studied.”

Wood said new chapter president Stephen Edwards did an outstanding job putting the banquet together, and also credited previous president Yates McGraw for the work he did before Edwards took over.

“Stephen spent a lot of time planning and preparing the event,” Woods said. “Yates McGraw deserves a lot of credit. He led the chapter for 10 to 12 years, built it up and kept it going for a decade.”