NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Wild turkey hunting season is still months away. Even so, thousands of the sport’s most faithful followers flock here each February for a pilgrimage to celebrate America’s most prized game bird.
The destination is the National Wild Turkey Federation Convention and Sports Show. This year’s 38th annual event at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center just wrapped up at the largestnon-casino hotel and resort outside of Las Vegas.
Click image to see shots from the floor Day 1
The 2,800-room hotel resort filled to capacity with turkey fans. They explored and shopped through 700 booths covering 220,00 square feet at the sports show. Auctions featuring once-in-a-lifetime hunts, limited edition guns and original artwork benefited conservation programs. Country music stars entertained attendees. And of course, the nation’s best callers vied for the ultimate title at the Grand National Calling Contest.
Click image to see shots from the floor Day 2
“It really is a pilgrimage of sorts for all of us with a passion for conserving and sharing the legacy of the wild turkey,” said Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland. He’s the senior vice president of media service for Mossy Oak.
Beyond the title, Cuz is no different than the other 65,000 attendees of the show and convention. They all share a zombie-like affliction for outwitting the wiliest of all game birds. There will be weeks of insomnia from early morning hunts. Stories will be told about coaxing hung-up gobblers within shooting range. There will be lamenting over the stubborn bird that took days to bring home.
Click image to see NWTF silent auction items
In the meantime, the NWTF show polarized the group around one common belief. And that is wild turkey hunting is a pastime lived the year-round.