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Randy Roloson
Photo by Jeff Helsdon

Randy Roloson

Get to know this long-time member of NWTF Canada Board of Directors


When the "turkey bug" bit Randy Roloson he never imagined it would lead to his commitment to leading the NWTF's efforts in Canada.

The owner of a wrecking yard near Delhi, Ontario, Roloson is a lifelong hunter. Small game and deer were his primary interests until he started turkey hunting in the mid-1990s, a few years after the first turkey season in his area of Ontario. The season opened following a successful reintroduction that involved the NWTF, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and other partners.

"Once I took the seminar mandatory for all new hunters, the whole aspect of calling the bird to me and having it answer excited me," Roloson said. His wife, Brenda, and daughter, Jennifer, also joined the family turkey hunting ranks.

Driven by the desire to raise more money for trap and transfers to expand the turkey's range in Ontario, Roloson, Mike Evans, Roger Marsden and Darryl Poole started the NWTF Big Creek Chapter in February 1998. The first event was at the Port Rowan Community Centre, a few miles from the first turkey release in Ontario in 1984. Big Creek was one of the first few chapters in Ontario, and it became a resounding success, even though it was in a rural area with a smaller population. As it grew, the chapter moved from Port Rowan to a larger facility in Delhi. It has consistently been in the top three chapters in Ontario for dollars raised, often finishing first. The Big Creek Chapter also won awards for most memberships.

As the NWTF expanded in Ontario, Roloson was asked to be part of the Canadian board, along with Jack Playne and Russ Davies. Roloson was the initial vice president. Since then, the three men have rotated roles on the board.

Roloson was also a director with the provincial board and headed up the Super Fund committee for 10 years with Brenda. In that role, he went through all applications from chapters to tap into the provincial Super Fund and chaired a committee with representation from chapters and the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources.
Some of the NWTF Super Fund projects in Ontario have been turkey care packages (purchasing turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas for food banks), JAKES Days, Women in the Outdoors programs, Wheelin' Sportsmen events and habitat projects like planting trees and crops for turkeys, performing prescribed burns and establishing tall grass prairie plots.

Canadian success

Prior to reintroduction, the last wild turkey was seen in Ontario in 1909. Records show the bird's range was originally limited to the southern part of the province.

In March 1984, the first wild turkeys flew from trap and transfer boxes in Norfolk County, Ontario, a few miles from where the first Big Creek dinner was held. The NWTF was one of several partners involved in the reintroduction effort. Continued transfers expanded the turkey's range. Today, the wild turkey is found further north than its historical range.

The NWTF grew rapidly in Ontario. Kevin Townsend started the first chapter in 1996. He reportedly shot the first wild turkey during the first Ontario season in 1987 and was the first NWTF regional director in Ontario. Today, there are 28 NWTF chapters in the province. — J.H.

 

"The provincial board is voted on and nominated from among the chapters," Roloson said. "The Canadian board is basically a corporation, and the three of us are the head of the corporation."

As a national board member, Roloson attends two meetings each year. In the early days, he often represented the national board at turkey releases and attends the annual NWTF convention. He made several friends at the convention, leading to opportunities to turkey hunt in Ohio and Kentucky and host his American friends for Ontario hunts. "Overall, they are all interesting people," he commented. "They all speak the turkey language, so they're easy to sit down and talk to."

Roloson and Playne are the only Ontario residents to receive the NWTF Patron Life Award for $25,000 in donations and time given. Randy and Brenda's dedication to the NWTF was recognized in January when they were given the President's Award for dedication to the provincial board and the NWTF. — Jeff Helsdon