Highlands Chapter, NWTF
Highlands Chapter
National Wild Turkey Federation

262 Burnt Meadow Road, Ringwood, NJ 07456
Back in the summer of 1996 some avid turkey hunters from the Ringwood (Bergen/ Passaic County) area were introduced to the NWTF and the work that they do to promote wild turkey conservation. These guys hooked up with some other hunters from Morris County to become the Highlands Chapter. At that time, there were no other chapters in the region, so we became the focus for the North Jersey Area, with members from Morris, Sussex, Passaic, Bergen, Essex and Hudson Counties for a start. In actuality, we had about ten active members in the chapter.

We elected a Board of Directors, President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and Banquet Chairman. In the twenty years that we have been working with the NWTF, our board members have changed. We have lost a few members and gained others; we have helped other chapters get established and grow, but we still only have less than a dozen ACTIVE members in the chapter getting the work done.

The fall of 1995 we held our first banquet at the Ringwood Fire House. Jerry Zimmerman was the Regional Director and our auctioneer. We had less than 100 guests, but we were successful and we were off. That was the first of our annual banquets. Our second banquet was at the Russian Hall just a few months later in February, 1996. The hall is located just off Rt 23, a few blocks south of the shopping malls on Rt 46. We had more than 150 guests at that event. We outgrew the Russian Hall and moved our banquet to the Wayne Manor on Route 23 where we held several banquets until they closed in 2006 and we were forced to change venues. Following their closure, our banquets moved to the elegant Knoll County Club, in Parsippany, just north of Lake Hiawatha. We held our banquets there from 2006 to 2009. In order to keep our meal costs low, we moved our banquet to the Zeris Inn in 2010, and have been there since.

In 2005, our founding Regional Director, Jerry Zimmerman died in an auto accident while returning from a banquet. After an interim RD failed to work out, our own Banquet Chairman, Chris Karinja was hired for the RD's position. At that time, Chris was also the State Chapter President, so he had to step down. Scott Hill, the Highlands Chapter President, was elected to be the State Chapter President, and Tom Plante was named Highlands Chapter President. In 2010, committee member Charlie Kucinski was elected Highlands Chapter President and Tom remained as Secretary.

When the Rob Keck, the NWTF Chairman resigned in 2008, many changes were made at National, and in early 2010, Chris Karinja was no longer employed by the NWTF and left the NWTF entirely. However, Chris was a dedicated turkey hunter and he returned to the Highlands Chapter as an active as a volunteer and remained the Highlands Chapter's Banquet Chairman. Over the next few years, New Jersey did not have a steady, reliable Regional Director. One transfered to Florida, One quit shortly afer being hired, and another just did not work out. Meanwhile, Chris Karinja, volunteered and filled in, ran several banquets and helped to make them outstanding sucesses. In Late 2012, Butch Faulkner joined the NWTF and became our RD. Butch proved to be exceptional, and was working hard to help all the Chapters in his region of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and South-East Pennsylvania. However, a promotion within the NWTF allowed Butch to transfer to Florida, once again leaving the region without an experienced Regional Director.

In December of 2014, Butch reported his transfer to Florida and that he would be working out of Edgfield. In January of 2015, a former chapter president from Maryland, Shawn Weddle was hired to be the next NJ,DE,MD Regional Director. Shawn is working diligently in the NWTF to make our banquets a success. He is improving with time as he gains experience in the chapters' banquets he has been running.

Another key to the New Jersey Chapters' successes has been our relationsip with Bob Eriksen, NWTF Senior Regional Biologist. Bob was the New Jersey State Turkey Biologist until he retired several years ago. Bob then joined the NWTF as the Regional Biologist for our region, NJ, DE, PA, and MD. Bob retired from the NWTF in the summer of 2015, and is now an active member of the Spruce Run Chapter. Bob lives in Phillipsburg, New Jersey and continues to provide consulting services to the NWTF.

Some of the accomplishents of the Highlands Chapter:

  • Awarded over $3000 in Scholarships for College Education
  • Worked with the Kittatinny Gobblers Chapter to run several Award Winning Jakes Days with over 100 children participating
  • Worked with the Central Jersey Limbhangers for our first Women in the Outdoors Event
  • Have achieved Golden Gobbler Status for fund raising more than Five Consecutive Years
  • Have had several members on the New Jersey State Chapter Board of Directors including:
    • Two State Chapter Presidents - Chris Karinja & Scott Hill
    • State Chapter Treasurer /Secretary - Thomas Plante
    • NJ NWTF Webmaster - Thomas Plante
  • Highlands Chapter Treasurer Scott Hill elected to the 2013 & 2015 National NWTF Board of Directors

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For information on this creation of this page please contact:
Thomas Plante
Highlands Chapter Webmaster