Josh Painter is the current president of the Cherokee Chapter in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He and his wife Christy have three children, Adelynn, 15, Bentley, 11, and Olivia Kate, 6.
Susan Delk: How long have you been hunting?
Josh Painter: I started hunting with my dad at a young age as most of us do. While he introduced me to the sport of hunting, it wasn’t a passion of mine as a young boy. It wasn’t until I arrived home from military service in 2008 as a 27-year-old man that I became passionate about the outdoors. As a father now to three children, I think of that same path and realize they might not take to hunting in their youth or maybe even at all as adults. It’s my job, however, to introduce them to the outdoors and let them take their own paths as I did.
SD: How long have you been turkey hunting?
JP: I’ve been turkey hunting for about 10 years. I’m the son of an avid deer hunter who can’t seem to get the whitetail buck off his mind, so I didn’t find the spring woods as quick as the fall. To this day, I still wait on dad while closing the distance on vocal birds as he loafs 100 yards back marveling at deer sign he’s found! My first longbeard was called in with him by my side, and we attend the convention every year together in Nashville. The Veterans Breakfast is the highlight of that trip for us.
SD: When did you first learn about the NWTF?
JP: When I harvested my first turkey, that was all it took; the obsession had begun. I started reading books by Tom Kelly and Gene Nunnery, listening to podcasts by Andy Gagliano, and watching hours of instruction from the likes of Billy Yargus, Preston Pittman, etc. Through those avenues, I learned about the NWTF. I knew if an organization was established to preserve the bird I loved to chase so much, I had to be a part of it. You would be surprised to know as we reach out to local turkey hunters, some don’t know who we are and/or they never knew there was a local chapter. We need to be better at getting that word out as we try to retain our hunting heritage through conservation into future generations.
SD: Why did you choose to not only become involved but also move into leadership?
JP: I didn’t come through the ranks of typical leadership roles in the NWTF. As I became involved, I learned the Cherokee Chapter was thriving as a $500,000 contributor and 20-plus-year Golden Gobbler winner; however, those accomplishments were riding on the backs of recurring long-term members with a need for “new blood” as they like to refer to new members. Our former president and a man I consider a mentor, Mr. Don Oscai, nominated me to lead as chapter president at a committee meeting. I worried how our members would receive that nomination with minimal experience on my part, but they believed in a greenhorn to take the reins, and they’ve been by my side the whole way.
SD: What events does your chapter hold each year?
JP: The Cherokee Chapter places considerable emphasis on providing a family atmosphere at our annual fundraising banquet. Our banquet offers a unique opportunity for kids to be a part of conservation and to become excited about the great outdoors. We host JAKES days, Wheelin’ Sportsmen events, hunter safety classes and cornhole tournaments and are currently working to start a Women in the Outdoors program.
SD: Any special events you would like to highlight?
JP: For everything we stand for and accomplish as a chapter, I’d have to say our annual banquet in March is what stands out to me the most. We include kids in everything we do from drawing tickets to handing out items. They’re the future of this organization, and we want them to be a part of that process. This may not be the typical way a banquet runs, but it works for our chapter and what we’ve become known for. At our latest banquet, we were able to honor over 150 veterans and first responders by providing them free underwritten meals and a night out to thank them for their service. To raise money for the NWTF, involve the kids, honor heroes, and bring a bunch of like-minded folks together: I’d call that a successful event.
SD: What kind of work does your chapter do each year?
JP: For many years, the Cherokee Chapter was a frontrunner among NWTF chapters in Tennessee in assisting the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the USDA Forest Service with habitat projects and various initiatives on public land. A great deal of habitat work and related land management projects were accomplished in the South Cherokee National Forest and at Prentice Cooper WMA. In addition, the chapter assisted with trapping and relocating wild turkeys from middle Tennessee to the South Cherokee Wildlife Management Area in Polk County.
In recent years, the Cherokee Chapter has steadily increased its emphasis on youth conservation, education and involvement in the outdoors. We provide youth (JAKES) memberships at no cost through fundraising and sponsors that are dedicated to our local youth outreach, a staple of our chapter efforts.
SD: Any final thoughts?
JP: My hope is the legacy I leave behind won’t be based on the things that don’t matter but (instead based on) the time I invested in younger generations and friendships that were made possible through God’s creation of the wild turkey. I’ve been blessed with opportunities to guide kids on their first bird to guiding an 87-year-old man on what would be his last. Those memories will carry a lifetime.