If you’re driving past the Econo Lodge on Route 309 in South Whitehall Township on Friday, March 11 around 6 p.m., and hear clucks, putts and gobbles, you may think turkey’s escaped from Jaindl’s turkey pens. But no, it’s just the Jerry Zimmerman Memorial Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) holding their 18th Annual Hunting Heritage Superfund Membership Banquet.
This gathering of supporters of wild turkey’s and the organization brings sportsmen from all over the Lehigh Valley. Aside from an all-you-can-eat buffet dinner, side dishes and refreshments, the organization will have a live auction of wildlife prints, sculptures, home furnishings, jewelry and collectibles. One auction highlight is a print donated by nationally known local artist Dan Christ. And for the 13th consecutive year, Bob Danenhower, Orefield taxidermist and call maker, will donate a custom made wingbone call, a one-of-a-kind collectable. If you arrive early, the banquet offers an Early Bird Sportsman’s Raffle that includes guns, package tickets, bonus tickets, a NWTF Folding Knife and NWTF cap or one extra sheet of tickets. For the ladies, an Early Bird Ladies Raffle also has raffle ticket packages that include a one-year membership to NWTF’s Women in the Outdoors, six issues of Turkey Country magazine and four issues of PA Turkey Talk publication.
As for raffle prizes, first prize is a Glock 27 (.40 caliber) pistol, or, a Ruger MINI 14 (.223 semi-auto) or, $500 cash. Second prize is a Mossberg 535 ATS (12 gauge) camo shotgun or, $300 cash. Third prize is a Savage Axis Rifle (winners choice of caliber) or, $200 cash, Fourth prize is a Savage Mark II .22 rifle with scope while Fifth is a $100 Cabela’s Gift Card. Raffle tickets are $5 each, three for $10, or seven for $20.
The major highlight of the banquet is the meet and greet with Morgan Craft. You may not know her but she is a Pennsylvania gal that is Olympics bound as a skeet shooter.
Craft hails from Muncy Valley, PA (Sullivan County) and is currently studying to be a Physicians Assistant at DeSales University in Center Valley. As a member of the USA Shooting Team, she will be representing the U.S. at this summer’s Olympics in Rio by shooting International or Olympic Skeet. The difference between American Skeet that most sportsman shoot and International, is that in American Skeet claybirds fly out from the houses at 45-47 miles per hour whereas International Skeet tosses them at 60-62 mph.
Another difference is that with American Skeet, the birds go out when the shooter calls “pull,” but in International, birds are launched instantly or with up to a 3-second delay. This makes it even more challenging to score.
According to Turkey Talk magazine, Craft started her shooting career at age eight shooting .22’s. Her competitive shooting began through a 4H Program after which she transitioned to trap shooting at age 11 and joined her high school trap team. She subsequently added Olympic style skeet to her regimen and would switch back and forth from trap shooting.
Craft’s grandparents, Gary and Nancy Craft, made her a deal she couldn’t refuse. If she showed she would pursue her dream of Olympic shooting, the grandparents built a regulation skeet field on the family farm. There she would shoot 250 rounds a day, 5-6 days a week.
In 2011, Craft reached her goal and was accepted as a member of the USA Shooting Team. A dream come true for a Pennsylvania gal going to Brazil to compete in a sport she loves.
Most recently, Craft won a silver medal at the ISSF World Cup Competition in Azerbaijan. And in 2015, she took a Gold Medal as the World Champion in Women’s Skeet that was held in September in Lonato, Itlay.
Craft, 23, will be at the banquet to talk about the upcoming Olympics and will do a meet and greet. To Purchase tickets for the banquet call Bruce Dietrich at 610-298-2424 or Scott Richards at 610-393-9761. There are several levels of ticket purchases, from a Corporate Sponsor to lower level. All will include full year NWTF memberships and a drawing for a gift certificate at each table for $300 at AF Boyer’s Hardware and Gun Shop in Slatington.
According to Dietrich, anyone is invited either as single guest, couple. Or, get friends and book a table of eight.
The Jerry Zimmerman Chapter uses the proceeds to do valuable habitat work in the state and contributes to land acquisitions. It also provides disabled hunters an opportunity to be afield through the “Wheelin Sportsman” program, supports JAKES Youth Field Days programs and sponsors Women in the Outdoors events.