ATLANTA— More than 25,000 hunting enthusiasts headed to Atlanta Feb. 21 to Feb. 24 for the National Wild Turkey Federation’s annual Convention and Sport Show, an event that celebrates the popular pastime of nearly 3 million North American outdoorsmen and women.
Inside the Georgia World Congress Center, the site of the four-day event, hunters heard the yelps, putts, clucks, purrs and gobbles of professional and amateur wild turkey callers as well as entertainment from some of the top names in country music during the convention.
The Wild Turkey Bourbon/NWTF Grand National Calling Championships, as well as taxidermy, art and callmaking competitions were featured events.
Attendees also gathered for meal functions complete with keynote speakers, live entertainment, raffles and auctions offering everything from custom-made wild turkey calls to a Chevrolet Tahoe and hunts in Africa, Alaska, New Zealand and many other places.
“We were very excited to bring this unique event to Atlanta,” said Pattsie Rand, director of sales and marketing at the Georgia World Congress Center. “This is not a typical trade show, and the huge crowd that attended was anxious to see all the NWTF had to offer.”
This was the first time in more than 10 years that the NWTF brought its show to Atlanta, and the event had an outstanding turnout.
The exhibit hall floor, where more than 545 vendors showcased hunting gear, home decor, ATVs, Chevy vehicles, boots, turkey calls, artwork and other products, also was a popular attraction for convention-goers.
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue welcomed the NWTF’s dedicated volunteers to the Thursday night Welcome Party, and the crowd enjoyed a variety of entertainers and special guests throughout the evening. After appearances by Miss Georgia 2007, Leah Massee and country music artist Craig Morgan, Grand Ole Opry comedian and banjo picker Mike Snider and his String Band got the group laughing and warmed the crowd up for 2007 CMA Award Winner Tracy Lawrence. Country music artists Daryle Singletary and Rhett Akins entertained the crowd as well.
Many popular show hosts from Outdoor Channel made appearances and signed autographs throughout the weekend. During Friday morning’s Federal Breakfast, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, delivered a well-received keynote address during which he encouraged hunters to defend hunting during upcoming elections by voting for candidates who support hunters’ rights.
“We are right to protect hunting just like we defend our homes and families because hunting weaves together people and places in our lives with a passion like nothing else can,” LaPierre said. “Get active in the 2008 elections to preserve the rich and rare blessings hunting bestows upon the lives of young Americans. These gifts are beyond price, and deserve protection.”
Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock and Lt. Gen. Emil R. “Buck” Bedard helped the NWTF recognize America’s veterans and military heroes during Saturday morning’s Veteran’s Breakfast, sponsored by Winchester/Olin.
Country music artist, Lorrie Morgan, and bluegrass group, The Peasall Sisters, provided entertainment for the guests at Saturday evening’s Awards Banquet, which honored the NWTF’s top volunteers.
Member of The Rolling Stones, author and conservationist, Chuck Leavell, was the keynote speaker – and surprised the crowd with a rendition of Ray Charles’ “Georgia” before receiving an NWTF Hunting Heritage Statue for his many years of conservation efforts.
“While I’m a conservationist, musician and author, I’m also a tree farmer, and own 2,200 acres of land in middle Georgia,” Leavell said after accepting the NWTF’s Hunting Heritage Statue. “As a landowner and someone who loves the outdoors and the environment, I really appreciate the NWTF. The Federation brings together like-minded people who want to conserve and improve land for the people in our country. A big `thank-you’ is in order for Rob Keck and Jere Peak’s strong leadership, and the work of the NWTF’s network of volunteers, and for everything they’re doing to keep wildlife strong and the numbers increasing.”
David Blanton of Realtree, keynote speaker at Sunday morning’s Remington Breakfast, shared his testimony and brought many in the crowd to tears before members of the Clark Atlanta University Philharmonic Society led a worship service.
Among the many events at the convention were the Wild Turkey Bourbon/NWTF Grand National Calling Championships. More than 40 callers competed for the Senior Division title before Billy Yargus of Ewing, Mo., was named champion on Saturday.
Winners of the Wild Turkey Bourbon/NWTF Grand National Calling Championships include:
- Billy Yargus, Ewing, Mo., Senior Division
- Kerry Terrell, Brooklet, Ga., Rare Breed Champion of Champions
- Mark Prudhomme, Georgetown, S.C. and Kerry Terrell, Brooklet, Ga., Team Challenge
- Mark Prudhomme, Georgetown, S.C., Owl Hooting Championship
- Stephan Richardson, Springdale, Ark., Gobbling Championship
- Matthew Van Cise, Brookville, Pa., Friction
Winners of the 2008 NWTF Grand National Intermediate and Junior Calling Championships are:
- Dakota Clouser, Danville, Pa., Intermediate Division
- Jimmy Pollard, Fort Smith, Ark., Junior Division
The Federation has spent 35 years shaping a legacy of wild turkey conservation and preservation of the hunting tradition. Since 1973, the Federation’s ranks have grown to more than 550,000 members across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
View all Convention results and highlights.