BUCKHANNON — The Tennerton Lions Club remains vigilant when it comes to giving back to the community. The Lions also seek to support the youth of the community when they get the opportunity and one way they enjoy doing that is through the J.A.K.E.S. program of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
After the opening of the club’s Monday evening meeting, Lion Bob Garrison took the pleasure of elaborating about the NWTF and what the organization has to offer. As an avid turkey hunter and member of the NWTF, Garrison mentioned the organization was established in 1973, having chapters spread out in all the 50 states, as well as Canada and Mexico.
Garrison mentioned the many programs under the NWTF that include: “Women in the Outdoors” that began in 1998 as an organization to include the entire family; “Wheelin’ Sportsmen” that started in 2000 to introduce or reintroduce people with disabilities; and the J.A.K.E.S. program (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship) that began in 1981 to teach our youth about hunting.
Garrison noted that our local chapter of the Stonewall Jackson Woodlands Tracks Chapter, which includes both Upshur and Lewis Counties, will be entering its twentieth year, having been established in 2001. “We’ve received national recognition in our J.A.K.E.S. program back in 2015 for the Best Cooperators Awards. People of the community and organizations have supported J.A.K.E.S. Day and our Tennerton Lions Club has helped make that happen,” he stated. Garrison stated that what they make on memberships goes to the national office and what they make on the rest comes back to the state, which are called “Super Fund” expenditures. He reported that West Virginia grants received have totaled over $1.8 million since 1985.
The United States renders viable turkey populations in every state, except Alaska. “Alaska has never had a natural turkey population but are actually now trying to stock some in the very southeastern section of the state,” Garrison said. “A lot of people don’t normally think of Hawaii as the greatest place in the world to do turkey hunting, though contrary to that belief, the state has a very good turkey population and sustainable turkey season,” he said.
He shared that the U.S. contains five major turkey subspecies: Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande, Merriam’s and Gould’s. Each subspecies displays different physical and behavioral characteristics that define them. “East of the Mississippi River, most state’s turkeys are known as the Eastern variety. One example of that is in the southern part of Florida, there’s a bird called the Osceola and looks a lot like the Eastern, but has a few distinct differences,” Garrison stated. The Rio Grande variety mostly inhabit the western desert regions of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and other western states, as the Merriam’s turkeys reside more in higher elevations of the country as in the mountainous regions of the west with a considerable amount found in the Rocky Mountains. The Gould’s turkey, he mentioned, can be found in Arizona, New Mexico, and small northern parts of Mexico, with their population being few in numbers.
Garrison explained that in turkey hunting, one of the most redeeming feats are the variety of “slams” undertaken, in which a hunter must harvest each species or subspecies of wild turkey listed under one of the six recognized slams in turkey hunting to complete a slam. “If you get the four that are in the U.S. (Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande and Merriam’s), it’s called a grand slam. The other five, which are the Royal, World, Canadian, Mexican and U.S. Super Slam, have a detailed list of their requirements that can be found on the NWTF’s website.
The last of the six turkey species Garrison touched on was the Oscillated turkey, which he explained is quite the spectacle since it renders a lot of the colors of a peacock. They are reportedly native to Central America, specifically in Honduras, Guatemala, and in the extreme southern parts of Mexico. “If you can brave the conditions to go hunting for them in those areas, it is dangerous,” he mentioned, “and if you’re able to go down there and kill that species and have all six, they call that a World Slam.”
Garrison has travelled as far as Mexico to a place called Aguascalientes to hunt their most common turkey species, the Gould’s turkey. He stated he’s proud to have been a part of all of his three sons’ lives, having called in their first turkey and being a part of their first deer and squirrel kills. “To me, that’s one of my greatest feats,” Garrison said.