Turkey event draws 120 participants

NEWAYGO — Brian Boland was pleased with what he saw last Saturday.

Boland, a Mecosta resident, is president of the Newaygo Valley Gobblers chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, which had its annual Hunting Heritage Banquet on March 12 at the Newaygo Sportsman Club.

There were 120 people in attendance.

“We were going to stop at 110 and had 120,” Boland said. “We try to keep it low so it’s not too congested. This was the most we’ve ever had.”

The chapter has hosted around 20 annual banquets.

“Our programs focus on wild turkeys, deer and other wildlife and the protection and enhancement of our unique habitat and hunting/shooting heritage,” Tom Karsten, NWTF regional director, said. “The latter distinguishes the National Wild Turkey Federation from other conservation focused organizations.

“The NWTF works at the national and state levels but the majority of our work is done locally. (Hunters’) involvement is critical to sustaining and improving wildlife habitat and the future of our shooting and hunting heritage.”

The Newaygo Valley Gobblers, Boland said, has members from Newaygo, Mecosta Osceola, Montcalm and other neighboring counties.

“We have good friends from Kent County too,” Boland said. “There’s chapters in just about every county. We feel blessed for people to drive quite a way to come to our banquet.”

The club earlier this year had a youth hunt at the Haymarsh Hunting Club.

“That’s one of the reasons we put on this banquet,” Boland said. “For the money we make, we put it back into programs for the out-of-doors.”

Next year’s banquet will be March 11.

Turkey hunting season locally starts in mid-April. Boland will buy a permit for the 234 hunt in May.

“You can buy them over the counter now,” Boland said. “All last summer and into the fall, we haven’t had birds like this in the last five to six years. It’s been an easy winter.”