White Cloud chapter of NWTF conducts 17th annual banquet

WHITE CLOUD — Turkey season is right around the corner and members of the White River Longbeards chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation got into the mood on Saturday with its annual fund-raising banquet.

The chapter is based out of White Cloud.

Harry Willson, banquet chairman, said the chapter started in 2000 and he joined 10 years ago. It was the 17th chapter banquet.

“It’s usually the first or second Saturday in April,” he said. “Most of the time we run 150 to 180. The hall we have is a Catholic Church Hall and the fire code allows us just 180.”

Most attendees come from Newaygo County.

“One of the guys on our committee is originally from Kalamazoo,” Willson said. “He has a lot of friends from down there that went to their banquet. They switch to come to ours. They thought it was a lot nicer banquet.”

The program consisted of six games, with guns given away at each one. Regional director Tom Karsten from MNTF attended.

Of the money raised at the banquet, “we get a certain percentage that comes back to our chapter,” Willson said. “What we make, they tally it all up and we get a certain percent back and we spend it on scholarships. We give a $500 scholarship away every year to a (high school) senior in White Cloud. We buy turkeys for Thanksgiving, usually 100 frozen turkeys and distribute them to local churches. We do a ‘women in the outdoors’ event, and we buy seeds for people to plant for habitat for the animals.”

The banquet attendees “are not all turkey hunters, they just like the hunting and going to banquets and trying to win guns,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of like a night out.”

Willson, a White Cloud resident, is an avid turkey hunter. He has a permit for the second week of turkey hunting, starting on April 25.

“I’ve seen quite a few during the winter time,” Willson said. “The winter was mild for them. I’ve seen good signs of a lot of toms this spring already. Some of them are out already breeding. I have flocks by our house and there were about 50 this winter running around.”