The Business of conservation: Kansas One Shot Turkey Hunt takes tradition, opportunities forward.
Today’s well-stocked table usually owes more to skill in business than prowess in the field, but organizers of an event bringing the two together say the similarities are striking.
Mike Hayden founded a turkey hunt designed to bring community, business and industry leaders together in friendly-but-serious surroundings. When he was elected Governor of Kansas in 1987, one of the accomplishments of his first year in office was the founding of an event that lasted the larger part of four decades. The Kansas Governor’s Annual One-Shot Turkey Hunt was modeled on a Wyoming pronghorn event with similar goals. It became the archetype that set the tone for others nationwide, and it’s a tradition being carried on in Kansas by a new organization still today. It’s beloved because it’s effective, and it’s effective because it routinely connects leaders on levels that reach well beyond the surface to touch the soul.
The office of any state’s governor is a place for purposes to cross paths. Business, industry, agriculture and commerce converge and, sometimes, collide. It’s a place where deft diplomacy can make a real difference. A governor who can help these forces harmonize can do a lot of good. Putting industry leaders who need workers into close proximity with community leaders whose workers need jobs is not a new goal. Scores of golf tournaments and social events set out to do the same every week in America. Setting this scene in a hunting venue is more than a mere novel approach, though. It combines two instincts that trace their origins to a common cause. A marriage of hunting and economic development makes both efforts effective on levels deep and broad, and in ways other scenarios simply cannot.
Hunting and other time spent in the outdoors often occupies the slot in our schedules allotted for hobbies, but these are far more than amusing diversions. Hunting is anything but a game. It’s an instinct. Hayden grew up in the outdoors and knows that well. He knew the passions a bountiful natural resource could inspire. Connecting those to the pursuit of business, and a commitment to conservation, was a natural step.
“In the event’s early days, we raised money for turkey management,” Hayden said. “We raised money for trap-and-transport programs, because there weren’t turkeys in every county of the state. The event shared a great message about conservation, because the wild turkey is something to be celebrated. The story of its reintroduction is one of the greatest in American conservation. Now with turkey populations on the decline, events like this are here to turn that around.”
Anecdotally, turkey populations appear to be in decline nearly everywhere they’re found. While there doesn’t appear to be any single silver bullet set to solve the problem, issues seem to be directly tied to changes in habitat and growing nest predator populations.
When organizers of the Kansas Governor’s Annual One-Shot Turkey Hunt retired the name and the organization last year, there were plenty in the El Dorado community who weren’t ready to let its energy disappear. This spring, the Kansas One Shot Turkey Hunt was formed and held its first event April 13-15, following in its predecessor’s pattern with a deep commitment to funding wild turkey research and reestablishment. Because of that goal, title sponsors TrueTimber Camo and Turkeys For Tomorrow were quick to jump on board.
TrueTimber Camo was the event’s leading supporter, supplying camo clothing for every participant.
“We were thrilled at the opportunity to support this event and further support the TFT mission,” said TrueTimber CEO Rusty Sellars.
“The plight of the wild turkey needs attention brought to it and money raised to reverse it,” said Ron Jolly, co-chairman of the board of Turkeys For Tomorrow. “It’s an honor to work with TrueTimber. Their support helps do a great deal of both.”
The event focused on mentoring youth in the outdoor traditions, honoring members of the military and first responders, and raising money for research and regeneration of wild turkey populations in Kansas, all while promoting economic development in Butler County and throughout the state.
“We’re already making plans for improvements to include in next year’s event,” said Jarrod Nichols, one of the event’s key organizers. “People come here to hunt but leave with a new group of lifelong friends. All the connections you make at the event are unique and can only happen here. All of the hunters, guides, volunteers, corporate sponsors and community sponsors had a great time, and we did a lot of good.”
The event drew a full field of 48 hunters and 48 guides. It drew more than 100 to a town hall discussion on the future of wild turkey conservation, and it brought more than 300 participants and supporters to the Chase Holton concert, auction and banquet on its closing night.
Final figures on funds raised aren’t yet available, but organizers are confident the books will close well into the black with a strong net-positive. More importantly, this inaugural reinvention of the beloved event laid a firm foundation on which the future may be built.
“We had an unbelievable amount of support from industry professionals and elected officials, and everyone had a smile on their face the whole time,” Nichols said. “That’s a sign of a great program and a great event, and it certainly put a smile on my face as well.”