The old adage, “There is strength in numbers” certainly holds true for the NWTF in
Pennsylvania. During my time on the Board of Commissioners for the PA Game
Commission many groups and organizations testified during the public comment
section of our meetings. One of the groups whose testimony carried the most
weight, whose message was heard the loudest, was the Pennsylvania Chapter of the
The reason the NWTF received that attention was in the numbers. The NWTF
represented over 10,000 members in Pennsylvania and a quarter of a million
I am happy to say our numbers have grown. Over the past year, thanks to your
efforts, the Pennsylvania Chapter has added nearly 900 new adult members. That is
another 900 people that believe in and support our Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt
Many of those 900 new members will attend one of our local banquets, purchase a
few raffle tickets in hopes of winning a new gun or bid on a unique auction item, all
the while enjoying a night out with friends and family. A few of those 900 new
members will get more involved. They will volunteer for a Jakes event or help out at
a Women in the Outdoors or a Wheelin’ Sportsmen’s event. And a few of those 900
new members will like what they see so much they will join a banquet committee.
Each of those 900 new members joined this great organization because someone
asked them to purchase a membership. They will attend a banquet because
someone invited them to come. They will help out at an event or join the local
committee because someone asked them to help. It is important to keep our
membership growing, to continue to get more people involved and to find the next
generation of leaders for the Pennsylvania Chapter. We just need to ask.
While the addition of 900 new adult members is an excellent accomplishment, all
the membership news isn’t good. Over the past year, we lost nearly 500 Jakes
members. Jakes memberships are important because they represent future hunters
and the next generation of conservation leaders.
The worst part of the loss of Jakes memberships is that at the end of last year 1,900
fully funded Jakes memberships went unfilled. Those 1,900 unfilled memberships
were paid for through local banquets. Once again this year, chapters will purchase
Jakes memberships through their banquets. It is important we find ways to match
each and every one of those memberships with the name of a young boy or girl. The
future of our hunting heritage depends on it.
WILD TURKEY FIELD SCHOOL
I am very proud that the Pennsylvania Chapter of the NWTF was instrumental in
supporting the first Wild Turkey Field School through the Wildlife Leadership
Academy. This year’s camp, entitled PA Gobblers, was held July 25-29 at Stone
Valley Recreational Area.
Wildlife biologists and outdoor professionals from the Pennsylvania Game
Commission, National Wild Turkey Federation and various colleges and universities
combine their efforts to provide students attending PA Gobblers with an amazing
A special “Thanks” to the Cameron County Longbeards and Susquehanna
Longbeards chapters that also contributed to the PA Gobblers Field School. As these
two chapters proved, the Wildlife Leadership Academy is an excellent investment in
our future, benefitting future generations of turkey hunters and possibly even our
next generation of wildlife biologists.
Plans for the 2018 Pa Gobbler s Field School are already underway. It would be nice
to see more chapters get involved. There are several ways for chapters to help.
Individual chapters can contribute directly to the PA Gobblers Field School or one of
the other field schools offered by the Wildlife Leadership Academy. In addition, local
chapters can help by offering scholarship money for students attending the school.
Since students are required to pay $500 toward their tuition, local NWTF chapters
can help by applying their $250 scholarship toward a student’s tuition.
CWD AND MORE
I’ll admit the latest news of chronic wasting disease found in a wild deer in
Clearfield County within Disease Management Area 3 caught me off-guard. Since
DMA 3 was originally based on a single deer in a captive herd contracting CWD, I
was certain the threat would expire after the mandatory 5-years and everything
would go back to normal. Discovery of CWD in the wild takes the issue to a whole
While CWD is NOT the kind of disease that spreads rapidly or has the potential to
wipe out entire deer herds, any disease that threatening wildlife or its habitat is of
The spread of new diseases and invasive species is a major threat to wildlife and our
hunting heritage. We have seen the American chestnut and elm wiped out by a
fungus, while hemlocks, ash and several other critical species are currently being
threatened. The latest news for our state bird, the ruffed grouse, isn’t good. Due to
the spread of West Nile Virus, grouse populations have declined so far that the Game
Commission was forced to close the late season for grouse.
Fortunately, the wild turkey has escaped the current list of threats, but it may just
be a matter of time before it too is being threatened. I am proposing the
Pennsylvania State Chapter set aside money each year to build a fund to respond if
and when a threat to the wild turkey arises. Hopefully, we will never need it.
- Ralph Martone