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Miss-Lou chapter hosts annual banquet for turkey conservation

NATCHEZ — Turkey hunters young and old flocked to the Natchez Convention Center Thursday night to take part in the 19th annual National Wild Turkey Federation’s Miss-Lou Hunting Heritage Banquet.

The banquet, which was $50 for individuals and $70 for couples, featured a live and silent auction, raffles and a steak dinner, all to benefit NWTF’s conservation and hunting heritage mission.

“Our mission is the conservation of wild turkey and the preservation of the hunting tradition,” said NWTF regional director Joe Wood.

The Mississippi chapter of NWTF spent $17,107 on habitat enhancement on public and private lands in 2010, 27 percent of the total money spent by the chapter last year. Fundraisers such as the Miss-Lou Hunting Heritage Banquet raise money for these expenses. Sixty-five hunting heritage banquets were held in Mississippi last year.

The NWTF has given more money to the Department of Wildlife than any other conservation organization, Wood said.

“The annual area banquet is a home for the outdoorsmen in the area to get involved and get together,” said NTWF Miss-Lou committee chairman Stephen Edwards.

One goal for the 2011 banquet was to become more family-oriented and get more women and children involved in the turkey hunting and conservation community, Wood said.

“The youth of today are our hunting folk for the future and getting young folk outdoors and passing on the tradition is important as we all get older, if that wasn’t happening many of us are a dying breed,” said Redneck Adventures’ Jim Allgood, who was also there to auction off a trip to the show’s annual squirrel hunt.

One example of the youth movement is the winners of one of the 2010 banquet’s biggest auction items.

Nolan Voss, 15, and John Ashton Hicks, 12, will be heading out to hunt turkey this weekend with a film crew following every shot.

They will be featured on the hunting show, “Mossy Oak’s Hunting the Country.”

Hicks said he has been turkey hunting approximately three times. Voss said it will be his first hunting trip.

“(Turkey hunting) is a lot of fun if you can get them to gobble,” Hicks said. “I like being in the outdoors and spending time with my dad.”

Several hunting trips were auctioned off again Thursday night, along with other items including guns, knives and wildlife paintings, Wood said. The gun of the year was also a featured item and it is worth well over $1,000, Wood said.

The Miss-Lou Chapter treasurer Brian Fisher said, before the banquet started, that he was expecting approximately 175 to 200 members to show up Thursday night. The goal for the chapter is to get to approximately 250 to 300 members, Fisher said.

Membership for adults is $50, which includes a subscription to a NWTF magazine and a conservation donation. Children, ages 13 to 17, can join for $10 and kids 12 and under can join for free, Fisher said.

Historically the Miss-Lou chapter has been one of the state’s top NWTF chapters, Allgood said.

“We are probably one of the better chapters with a lot of young guys that have taken the torch from many of the guys that worked very hard for many years and now they are running on in the right direction,” Allgood said.

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