World's first Wayne Bailey Awards ceremony

ATLANTA — At a Friday luncheon at the 2008 NWTF Convention, a number of awards were passed out honoring the various achievements of land managers, biologists, and corporate citizens all looking to help the wild turkey continue to gobble across North America.

But no award brought the applause — or even the misty eyes — that the organization's first ever "Wayne Bailey Lifetime Achievement Award" did.

Named after the late pioneering turkey biologist Wayne Bailey — known to many as the godfather of wild turkey restoration and management efforts — the first recipients of the award were North Carolina's Mike Simpson and New York's Fred Evans.

While Evans was unable to be in attendance, Simpson — the recently retired turkey program leader for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission — was humbled to receive his award.

"This award means the world to me," Simpson said. "Wayne was a mentor of mine, he taught me a lot of things, but most of all, he was my friend."

While the impact of Bailey's work was obviously felt in the Tar Heel State — Simpson succeeded Bailey when he retired from the NCWRC — it was also felt in many other states as well.

"Wayne Bailey was one of the ones in the early days in the late 40s and the 50s that perfected a way to trap turkeys using what was called a cannon net at that time," said Dr. James Earl Kennamer, the NWTF's senior VP for Conservation and presenter of the award.

"Before that, you could only use pole traps and you couldn't move very many (turkeys because) it was very inefficient."

Over the years that followed, Bailey and others moved on to use the rocket propelled nets that make large scale trap and transfer of wild turkeys possible today.

Kennamer indicated that because of such pioneering work, Bailey indeed played a "…major, major role in the comeback of the wild turkey."

(Editor's Note: From a low of some 30,000 wild turkeys in the early 1900s, some 7 million wild turkeys roam the North American continent today.)

Simpson agreed whole heartedly, noting Bailey's trap and transfer work in North Carolina, West Virginia, and elsewhere.

"That has been the cornerstone of it," he said. "Without trap and transfer, it would have never happened.

"Wayne was one of the founding fathers of the technique to catch wild turkeys and relocate them.

"Like I said, it's the cornerstone of the whole program.

And that's what made Friday's award so special to the North Carolina turkey biologist.

"He (Bailey) set the ground work for the turkey program in our state and I was honored to follow in his footsteps along that path that he laid out," Simpson said.

"To receive an award that bears his name is a deep honor for me."