Today’s blog post comes to us from Mike Schmid, Executive Producer of Intrepid Outdoors. Mike shares his personal experiences of helping to organize an incredible fundraising event and turkey hunting competition, the “Old West Invitational Turkey Shoot” held annually in Hulett, Wyoming. Watch the event unfold and some great turkey hunting during this week’s episode of Intrepid Outdoors: Monday at 6:30 PM ET, Friday at 3 PM ET and Saturday at 12 PM ET.
I ran into Craig Showalter at the Hulett Motel one day about three years ago. He mentioned he was in town to discuss with some local businessmen about the possibility of starting some sort of a turkey hunting competition. I didn’t really know Craig so I just kind of nonchalantly mentioned if they needed any help to give me a call.
Now, let’s fast forward about six months. I get that call from Jim Neiman. He says. “hey Mike, Craig tells me that you might be interested in helping out on this turkey hunt idea. We are having a meeting at the Ponderosa Café in a couple days; we would like you to be there.”
I remember this being early October. So I walk into the Ponderosa in downtoen Hulett, Wyoming and here is a table full of people, some I knew, some I didn’t. Well they started talking about what they wanted to do and I soon realized this ain’t gonna be no ordinary turkey hunt. These people were planning an all out “EVENT” and they wanted it to happen the following spring only six or seven months away. I left the meeting thinking to myself, what the heck have I got myself into. There is no way we are going to pull this size of an event off and run it effectively in this short amount of time.
We knew we had a lot to do. We needed to organize food, lodging, transportation, guides, landowners, auctions, raffles, non-hunt activities, dinners and a banquet just to name a few. Then there was the job of finding sponsors to fund the event and celebrities to attract potential sponsors. It was kind of mind boggling to say the least.
The first thing we did was broke up the responsibilities and name a committee chair to each of the event functions. They in turn found volunteers to help in each individual committee. Craig’s office in Cheyenne would handle all the administrative efforts. We then planned to meet each month so each committee chair could report how their respective department was moving along. After a couple of these monthly meetings, things were moving a long fairly well and I started to think we were going to pull this thing off.
My job was to head up the landowners and guides committee. I was in the outfitting business at the time so I knew a few guides, but being fairly new to the area ,I didn’t know the landowners that well. Enter James S. Neiman. This man, 82-years-young has been in Hulett his entire life and knew everyone and everyone knew him. He volunteered to drive me around to the local ranchers and introduce me to them. He said, “you got to do all the talking and explain the event to them. I’ll just do the driving”
Good enough I thought, so away we went. We spent the next two to three days together, stopping at all the beautiful ranches and talking to some of the neatest people I have ever met. Some of our conversations with these folks lasted for a couple of hours, most were 30 to 40 minutes. What I found fascinating is only one ranch did not give us permission and that was simply because they loved the turkeys and enjoyed feeding them and having them around their ranch yard. These folks loved the idea of the event, but didn’t want to harm the turkeys. All the other landowners gave their consent and most even supplied their own guide.
In the end, Jim and I signed up about 50 ranches and that gave us access to hunt more than 50,000 acres of some of the best turkey habitat in the country. Every person I asked to guide said yes as well, once they found out what this event was about and how it would help the community. I was totally amazed at the support this event was getting from the community.
Our monthly meetings were going well and things were coming together nicely. We had our share of surprises — things we forgot to think through — but when they showed up some one was there to handle it. It was an incredible group effort by an incredible group of people and volunteers.
May 2010 finally showed up and the First Annual Old West Invitational Turkey Shoot was underway. We had retired baseball players, basketball players, former governors, professional hunters and local residents among the crowd as well as many businesses from around the state of Wyoming. In total, we estimated there were about 300 people attending this event in our little town of nearly 400. We almost doubled the size of Hulett for this three-day event.
The First Annual Old West Invitational Turkey Shoot was a huge success. There were over 70 hunters, who took over 30 turkeys. We had an Annie Oakley Shoot and a Poker Tournament. It was a lot of fun, and not just fun for a certain group of people, it was fun for the whole family.
The idea behind this event had three purposes. First was to raise money for the Greater Hulett Community Center (GHCC) so they had funds to keep their doors open. Second was to raise money for the Wildlife Heritage Foundation of Wyoming (WHFW) now known as the Wyoming Community Foundation (WCF), which raises money to fund wildlife projects throughout the state of Wyoming. Third was to raise awareness for the incredible Turkey hunting we have here in the beautiful Black Hills of Northeast Wyoming. Needless to say, this event has knocked it out of the park on all three goals. After the third year of the event, each foundation has received more than $150,000 and more turkey hunters are looking at this part of the country to hunt the beautiful Merriam’s Turkey than ever before.
I feel honored to be part of this great event and this neat little town tucked away in the extreme northeast corner of the greatest state in our union. I personally feel this event will be one of the most popular fundraisers in our region. My hat goes off to all the landowners, guides, volunteers and hardworking people it takes to make this event possible. It is nothing short of amazing and proof positive that with an idea, good people and hard work anything can be done!!