Ken Polhamus helps young hunters make their own box turkey calls during a NWTF JAKES event at the Illinois Conservation Foundation’s Torstenson Youth Conservation Education Center near Rockford. Photos By Chris Young.
Galena couple receives national recognition
Prairie State Outdoors
A Galena couple that volunteers countless hours promoting hunting and providing opportunities to get kids outdoors is in the national spotlight.
Ken and Marcia Polhamus, who volunteer for the National Wild Turkey Federation, Illinois Conservation Foundation and others, are finalists for Field & Stream Magazine’s “Heroes of Conservation” award.
The magazine recognizes six finalists and presents the award to the winner Oct. 4 in Washington, D.C.
As finalists, Ken and Marcia will receive trip to Washington and $5,000 for a project of their choice.
If they win, they receive a Toyota Tundra pickup truck.
They also will be featured in the October edition of the magazine.
Mark Spangler, director of the Illinois Conservation Foundation, highlighted the couple’s dedication to providing youth hunting opportunities in a letter supporting their nomination.
“A typical JAKES turkey hunt at the ICF’s Torstenson Youth Conservation Education Center farm starts with Marcia and Ken awakening Saturday morning from their inflatable mattress, wedged between the pool table an wall, at 3 a.m., so the kids and parents can enjoy the privacy and comfort one of the bedrooms,” Spangler writes.
The couple prepares breakfast for young hunters and their families and then dons camouflage so they can serve as guides.
“Then it’s serving lunch back to the field and cooking diner,” Spangler writes. “For five consecutive weekends this scene is repeated with the same level of enthusiasm.”
Marcia Polhamus makes lasagna for dinner during a break in a morning turkey hunt.
As hunting season approaches, the couple barely has time to add one more item to the calendar.
There are more youth hunts to plan, appearances at the Illinois State Fair and a fundraiser for a new building at the Torstenson center.
They also are planning a get-away elk-hunting trip in September.
Shawn McWilliams, regional director for the NWTF, said his initial reaction was that Marcia and Ken might not even accept the award.
“They always put others first,” he said. “It’s not about them. The biggest concern was that those folks would not accept the award.”
McWilliams’ bosses at the NWTF home office had the same concern.
“You’ve got to get a hold of them and make sure they will accept it,” McWilliams said he was told.
“(Ken and Marcia) are not in it for the publicity,” he said. “They are in it for the future and for the kids being outdoors and following our hunting heritage.”
Ken and Marcia are going to make time for the awards ceremony.
“We told them we would come, but we told them they had to put us on the first flight out because we’ve got kids coming in for a youth deer hunt,” Marcia said. “They’ll start coming in Friday night, and the hunt is Saturday and Sunday (at the couple’s farm).”
The award ceremony is on a Thursday.
“It’s nice to be recognized,” Marcia said. “But as Ken says, if nothing else comes out of this, if one person see this and decides to volunteer or help out it is worth it.”
Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528