Pat Hoover is easily one the area's true experts when it comes to the wild turkey population.
In fact, he's the chairman of the Chautauqua Lake chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, a 40-year-old organization that's dedicated to the principles of conservation, preserving natural resources and to promote the nation's hunting heritage.
Hoover has been actively involved with the Chautauqua Lake chapter (there are also several others in the area) since its inception in 1978 and he and his fellow members were recently and pleasantly surprised with a unexpected honor when their district manager came to their last meeting to deliver a plaque.
That special plaque was the L.A. Dixon Jr. Memorial Outstanding Award, which is given to organizations who have met or exceeded the $500,000 mark in raising funds for the NWTF.
Needless to say, everyone was a bit overwhelmed.
"We had no idea how much money we had raised over all these years," said Hoover.
Reaching that level of success in fund-raising means the local chapter is now a member of the prestigious "Half-Million Dollar Club,'' an amazing accomplishment.
Hoover was thrilled with the honor and a lot of hard work and dedication has paid off.
"One of my responsibilities is to help put on our annual banquet each year," Hoover said. "It's my job to get it going, collect the prizes and so on."
According to Hoover, the banquet draws between 100 and 120 people each year.
"They really look forward to it and it's so much fun," said Hoover. "We usually give away eight to 10 guns through auctions and drawings."
The auctions feature things such as bird paintings and prints produced by local artists, bronze statues of turkeys and elk and several other items.
"I've been involved with the NRA, too, and they don't have half the stuff we have for our banquet," Hoover proudly stated.
Hoover himself started hunting wild turkeys back in the 1960s. At that time, there were very few of the birds in the region.
"We used to have to go to places like Coudersport and Smethport in Pennsylvania to hunt turkeys," Hoover said. "Then birds were relocated and transplanted to New York and in the early 1970s, we found turkeys in Allegheny State Park."
The organization's fund-raising efforts help to benefit a number of different groups, including the JAKES Youth Outreach Program, which is targeted to young hunters.
"It's open to kids ages 12 to 15 and it's a great way to teach them hunting skills and get them involved," said Hoover. " We (the Chautauqua chapter) hold a youth hunt the week before the season opens on May 1."
Another program that benefits from the efforts of the Chautauqua Lake chapter is "Women In The Outdoors."
"Actually, about half of our chapter is made up of women members," said Hoover. "It's great to see them get them involved to make the sport grow."
Then there's the "Wheelin' Sportsman" program, which is targeted to people confined to wheelchairs.
"They really enjoy hunting and we do all we can to get them out there every year," Hoover said.
The NWTF is a national nonprofit organization that, according to their Web site, "is the leader in upland wildlife habitat conservation in North America."
The NWTF, which was founded in 1973, has its headquarters in Edgefield, S.C. and has local chapters through the nation and Canada. It has established partnerships with state, federal and provincial wildlife agencies and has helped restore wild turkey populations throughout North America, spending more than $412 million to conserve nearly 17.25 million acres of habitat, an area larger than the state of West Virginia.