Randy Yohe Published

W.Va. National Wild Turkey Federation Preserves Natural Wildlife Habitat

Young people in hunting gear with harvested wild turkey's.
A JAKES hunt in the Logan area.
Courtesy of WVNWTF

Thanksgiving Day is also referred to as “Turkey Day,” and before that butterball came to be carved on many a table, wild turkeys laid an abundant claim to the Mountain State’s hills and hollows. The West Virginia chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (WVNWTF) is dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of a hunting heritage and natural habitat.  

Logan native Roger Wolfe is a WVNWTF board member and the state coordinator for the “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt” outreach program. Wolfe said the program is geared toward the federation’s mission of getting people outdoors and preserving wildlife habitat.

“Hunters are known to be the greatest conservationists out there.” Wolfe said. “We help the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) purchase private land for public land. We do a lot of habitat improvement projects with the DNR. There are actually some NWTF programs that are geared towards private landowners.”

NWTF efforts have helped restore wild turkey populations throughout West Virginia and North America. In the 52 years since the national organization was formed, the wild turkey population rose from 30,000 in the entire United States to more than seven million across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. 

Wolfe said the habitat preservation initiative goes far beyond protecting the gregarious gobbler.

“It’s not just turkeys that benefit,” he said. “It’s songbirds, white tailed deer and ruffed grouse. It helps a whole host of both game and non-game species.”

Wolfe said by a count made a few years ago, there were more than 30 WVNWTF chapters throughout the state with around 4,000 members. He said a big part of the organization’s efforts go toward the Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship (JAKES) program, educating and involving youth 17 and under in the stewardship of our natural resources. A “jake” is a young turkey.

“My Logan area chapter does a fishing day every year,” Wolfe said. “That’s another way to get kids excited and interested in doing outdoor things. It’s not just about turkeys.”

Finally, Wolfe was asked: What sort of bird might be on a West Virginia National Wild Turkey Foundation members’ Thanksgiving table, a wild or store bought turkey?

“I would say most of them are going for a store bought turkey,” Wolfe chuckled. “There’s just a whole lot more meat on a butterball than a wild turkey. They live a pretty rough life. It’s a meager existence, but they are tasty, I have to admit.”