Local turkey federation members reaching out to youth with program

Jay Buzzard (left) and Steve Nevius are members on the board of the National Wild Turkey Federation Flint Springs chapter. The organization recently received state and national recognition for completion of a five-star program for community involvement.
Jay Buzzard (left) and Steve Nevius are members on the board of the National Wild Turkey Federation Flint Springs chapter. The organization recently received state and national recognition for completion of a five-star program for community involvement. Photo by Andre B. Laird.

Wildlife conservation has always been one of the foremost missions of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

The non-profit organization was founded in 1973 with a mission of educating others about wild turkey conservation and preservation of the country's hunting heritage.

The local Flint Springs Chapter, which has been in existence for 14 years, has been fostering that culture through its JAKES and Xtreme JAKES programs, which started last year.

JAKES is an acronym for Juniors Acquiring Knowledge Ethics & Sportsmanship.

The JAKES program is designed for youth ages 12 years and under, while Xtreme JAKES is for youth 13 through 17 years.

Chapter Chairman Steve Nevius says the program is beneficial in introducing conservation concepts to youth.

"We gear our program around teaching youth about how to take care of their environment and the wildlife," he states. "We also offer activities for novice as well as avid hunters among the group."

According to www.nwtf.org, the organization started the JAKES program as a way to give kids the chance to explore their outdoor world through hundreds of fun kids-only events held across North America called JAKES Conservation Field Days.

Activities hosted by the Flint Springs Chapter in the past have included programs on gun safety and archery and rifle, shotgun and fishing contests.

Jay Buzzard, chapter treasurer, says it's all about getting youth off the couch.

"Our main goal is to get kids outdoors again and building that love for nature again," he states. "Right now, maybe only 10 percent of kids hunt today than when I was growing up."

Nevius adds that the federation holds numerous activities and engages in various community outreach efforts on a yearly basis.

The chapter recently received awards for completion of a 5-Star Program that required a combination of community service opportunities.

"One of the requirements was that we make a donation to an organization involved in conservation efforts," states. Nevius. "We made a donation to the Huntington Heritage Fund and the National Shooting Sports Federation."

Other criteria included supporting a local educator via the Education Box. Andrews Elementary kindergarten teacher Jenny Eckert was the recipient of the chapter's donation.

"We also have an annual scholarship in the amount of $300, that we award to a Huntington North High School senior," adds Nevius. "Last year the scholarship went to John Stoffel. The winner this year was Chelsea Hiney."

It is also required that chapter officers volunteer their time and efforts with another local organization. Nevius is the president of the board at the Sheets Wildlife Museum, while Buzzard serves as United Way board president.

"We also take part in turkey hunter programs as well as donated over $200 of turkey rolls to the Master's Pantry in Markle," adds Nevius.

Another program offered by the NWTF is its Wheelin' Sportsmen, where members accompany a disabled individual on a hunt.

"Last year we went on a deer hunt in November," says Nevius. "This year we're taking Ryan Eltzroth on a turkey hunt in May."

Eltzroth was injured in a parachuting accident while jumping with his unit, the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.

While on a charity jump for "Toys for Tots," he collided with another paratrooper in mid-air and his chute failed to open until he was approximately 150 feet above the ground.

The accident left Eltzroth paralyzed.

"We're going to go out there and have a fun hunt and see if we can catch a turkey," says Nevius.

On Saturday, March 20, the chapter will hold its annual NWTF Huntington Heritage Banquet, at the Police Athletic League, starting at 5:30 p.m.

The event is a fundraiser to raise money for wild turkey conservation. The evening will feature raffle games, with various prizes including sporting art, unique hunting firearms, knives, wildlife calls and outdoor equipment.

There is a cost for tickets and the cost includes a
one-year membership in the NWTF.

"We expect it to be a good night," states Nevius. "The scholarship recipient will also be recognized on that night."

Nevius adds that the organization is always looking for new members, which are simply people with a passion for conservation efforts.

"We welcome anyone to come check us out, especially those who love hunting or want to rediscover their love for hunting," he adds.

For more information about the NWTF, contact Nevius via e-mail at snevius@only internet.net; visit www.nwtf.org or call 800-843-6983.