How the NWTF Works

By: Olivia Page
Wild turkey.
With the help of the NWTF, the wild turkey population in North America has exploded since the early '70s.
Jeremy Woodhouse/Photodisc/Getty Images

What do you g­et when you cross a turkey with a bass? A turkbass? A basserky? Nope, you get the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).

The National Wild Turkey Foundation was founded in the 1970s -- with inspiration from the Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society -- as a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving and preserving the habitats of and hunting opportunities for wild turkeys in North America [source: NWTF]. The club works by raising money through membership dues, sponsor fees and donations. The monies raised go to transfer and reestablish wild turkey populations, educate people about hunting and conservation and provide land management assistance and wildlife tips to landowners and anyone who enjoys the outdoors [source: NWTF].


When the NWTF started out with just more than a thousand members, there were 1.3 million wild turkeys in North America. Today the organization is 500,000 members strong, and there are now 7 million wild turkeys roaming the land. NWTF's progress has grown to include corporate partners and sponsors, as well as federally backed support and interest in nationwide conservation programs [source: NWTF].

­The NWTF promotes several youth programs, including Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics & Sportsmanship (JAKES) and the National Archery in the Schools Program; help from volunteers, farmers and local residents continues to play a large part in the federation's success. As efforts spread around the globe to restore and preserve the wild turkey's native land, the NWTF continues to offer a convention, publications, outreach programs and a women's-only branch to its members. By providing land management expertise -- and products such as native seed grass -- to landowners and others who are concerned with environmental preservation, the NWTF takes a multifaceted approach to turkey conservation.

Thirty-some years of work and research has contributed to the roster of activities and partnerships of the NWTF, but to understand why people started worrying about the wild turkey in the first place, we need to take a look at what makes the bird -- and its hunters -- unique. So let's take a step back to read about the NWTF's history.


History of the National Wild Turkey Federation

­The year was 1971, and tur­key hunter Tom Rodgers, who worked as an insurance salesman and journalist, was concerned about the dwindling numbers of wild turkeys, his "favorite game animal" [source: Pavey]. The wild turkey population had been hunted down to just more than 1 million nationwide, and Rodgers, who had recently graduated from Tennessee Tech, talked with members of an Alabama fishing conservation society because he wanted to do something similar for the wild turkey.

The Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society, or BASS, headquartered in Montgomery, Ala., started in 1968, when founder Ray Scott wanted to restore bass fishing, improve the environment and leave a legacy of bass fishing for the future [source: ESPN]. By working with local officials, volunteers and other anglers interested in the same thing, Scott developed a one-of-a-kind organization. This was the foundation for the organization Tom Rodgers would establish as the National Wild Turkey Foundation in Fredericksburg, Va., before moving it to Edgefield, S.C., where it remains today. Now, almost 40 years after "talking turkey" with conservationists of a different feather, this club still works to revitalize the habitat and numbers of wild turkeys by working with hunters and landowners to share its mission and resources with all outdoors enthusiasts. To learn more about that mission, make tracks to the next section.


Mission of the National Wild Turkey Foundation

For Tom Rodgers and other sportsmen who began the mission of stabilizing bird populations and habitat as a way to preserve hunting traditions, partnersh­ips with individuals and organizations became the crucial aspects of the outreach process. With flocks almost completely eradicated through overhunting in several states such as Arkansas and Nebraska, it was just as important to educate the public as it was to save the birds [source: Arkansas game and Fish Commission].

Through education and outreach, the NWTF has established many programs for others to learn about its mission:


  • JAKES: a program for kids up to age 12 that delivers a fun-filled educational experience
  • Xtreme JAKES: a program for youth ages 13 through 17 that offers scholarships, contests and games
  • Turkey Hunters Care: a program that distributes frozen turkeys to families in need during the holidays
  • Wheelin' Sportsmen: a program designed for disabled sportsmen and sportswomen to help them enjoy outdoor hunting experiences and events

The NWTF hosts and sponsors a number of events for members who embody the mission -- one is the highly anticipated national annual convention. Local chapters sponsor their own events, like turkey shoots.

­With more than $279 million raised by partners, members and other donors, the NWTF has been able to provide these and other outdoor programs while saving nearly 14 million acres (5.67 hectares) of native habitat since its inception [source: NWTF]. Today the wild turkey is nearly restored in North America, and leaders and members of the group are looking to the future to see what conservation will look like in the next 35 years. If you want to be part of that future, look ahead to the next section to learn about joining the NWTF.


Joining the National Wild Turkey Federation

­With chapters in all 50 states, the­ NWTF is also a regional hub for members to become involved in their communities. Sound like the kind of challenge you're up for? Visit for more information.

Beginning with the regular one-year membership, which costs $30, members will receive one year of Turkey Call magazine, an issue of the Caller newsletter, a decal and a member card. For an additional price, inclusion in the Hunting Heritage Club can also be yours. From here, the membership opportunities increase in price but also in variety. If you're a student, an officer in the military, disabled or a woman, there's a special place in the NWTF just for you, with fees that range from $10 to $30. For these memberships, you get a variety of magazines and decals, but should you up the ante and contribute at the "sponsor" level of $5,000 or more, you'll receive a Silver Life Sponsor Membership. But regardless of the monetary contribution you can make, there are lots of ways for you to pledge your support to the NWTF.


In this article you've learned about the history, mission and membership of the NWTF. You may be convinced to contact your local chapter to see what events are taking place in your area and find out how you can become a part of the organization that works to conserve and preserve the habitats of and hunting opportunities for wild turkeys in North America.

Lots More Information

Rela­ted HowStuffWorks Articles

  • "About BASS." ESPN. (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • "About the NWTF." The National Wild Turkey Federation. (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • Grimes, Roy. "National Wild Turkey Federation, Matthews Inc. Commit 100,000 each to Archery in Schools Program."Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • "Habitat Management for Landowners." The National Wild Turkey Federation. (Accessed 12/07/08)
  • Hanback, Michael. "Get Real." Outdoor Life. (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • "JAKES." National Wild Turkey Federation. (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • "Nebraska Wildlife Species." Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • NWTF At-A-Glance: History of the NWTF."The National Wild Turkey Federation. (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • "NWTF Convention and Sports Show." (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • "NWTF Feather Distribution Project." The National Wild Turkey Federation. (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • "NWTF Home." (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • "NWTF In Your State." The National Wild Turkey Federation." (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • "NWTF Partners." The National Wild Turkey Federation. (Accessed 12/07/08)
  • Pavey, Rob. "Founders vision allowed turkey group to flourish." The Augusta Chronicle. (08/17/08). (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • Reyman, Jonathan. "Wingwise The Feather Distribution Project." Wingwise. (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • Taylor, Mark. "The Wildlife with Mark Taylor." The Roanoke Times. (06/17/07). (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • "Turkey." Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • "Turkey Hunters Care." National Wild Turkey Federation. (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • "Turkey Shoppe." The National Wild Turkey Federation. (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • "Wheelin' Sportsmen." Wheelin' Sportsmen NWTF. (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • Wild Turkey Habitat Management." Pennsylvania Game Commission. (Accessed 12/07/08)
  • "Women in the Outdoors." Women in the Outdoors. (Accessed 12/06/08)
  • "Xtreme JAKES." National Wild Turkey Federation. (Accessed 12/06/08)