Annual programming for the Light Foundation kicked off this month with the Ohio Youth Wild Turkey Hunt! It was a weekend filled with
fun, education, and leadership building skills. We welcomed sixteen young aspiring hunters, mostly beginners, to Chenoweth Trails, our Darke County Facility, where they spent two nights completely outdoors!
The youth were surrounded the first night at our Kick-Off Dunner by our experienced mentors, sponsors, volunteers and the and landowners who donated their land for the weekend. During the meal we prepared with a donation from Winner’s Meats, the young hunters learned more about our nonprofit organization, and participated in a safety talk provided by Matt Hoehn from Ohio Division of Natural Resources – Division of Wildlife.
After becoming more educated on how to practice all aspects of a safe hunt and being updated on all turkey hunting regulations, they headed back to camp, where we provide everything a young person could dream of enjoying during a weekend outdoor stay – even in the Ohio cold and rain! The attendees were so excited to explore the entire facility, but started off with an intense game of cornhole under the timber frame structured pavilion.
Before heading to bed, everyone gathered around the fire pit for a fireside chat about the essay topic they wrote about in order to earn their right to participate in this awesome outdoor experience: “Family, Friends & Memories. What Do They Mean to You?” Two former youth hunters, Carrie Rhoades and Wyatt Rammel, were present to lead the conversation. Each student offered unique insight into how those three things impact their everyday lives.
By 4:30 AM, alarm bells were ringing! The goal was for the hunters to be in the blinds before sunrise, but before they headed out, they filled up with the most amazing cinnamon rolls donated by Beanz Buttercream Bakery! Not long after the sun came up, our volunteers were hauling some of the youth hunters back with their harvest.
The first bird down was shot by Luke Rammel with hunting mentor Wade Tupper. Shortly after, our co-founder, Matt Light was calling to tell us that both Nathan Wright and Lexi Biddlestone tagged out! Next in was Ethan Hartman, Wesley Baker, Clair Rammel, Cali Harter and Libby Harter. Their mentors were Kim Strickland, Teri Kline, and Todd Harter. These are record breaking numbers for this annual youth hunt!
After all the excitement, everyone headed back to camp for a delicious lunch made by our star volunteer, Dixie Sonner! She prepared soups, salads, and her famous dirt pudding for everyone to enjoy while they told their hunting stories. In the afternoon, the youth hunters attended two seminars: “How to Use a Turkey Call” by Bob Fulcher and Ryan and the “10 Commandments of Hunter Safety” by Dwight “Bufford” Edwards, retired Wildlife Officer.
The youth spent the rest of the day mingling with their peers, playing games, and their favorite activity, building a fort out of natural resources! Both teams used their creative skills to erect two sturdy living quarters out of sticks, brush, and rocks. Before we knew it, the dinner bell rang! We gathered around the fire pit to eat tacos and reminisce on the day.
By the time day two came around, eight of the youth hunters woke up determined to make their harvest! It wasn’t long after the breakfast casseroles were served that Trey Rammel and his mentor, Kipp Kline, were on their way back to camp with a tagged bird! Soon after, Caleb Hartman with mentor Jody Goatley and Matt Light, and Braden Gilbert with mentor Ryan Skinner, completed their hunts too!
The clock struck noon and all campers and mentors made their way back to camp where Francis Furniture provided the whole crew with famous Maid-Rites for lunch! In what felt like the blink of an eye, it was time to clean up camp and pack our bags to go home.
The weekend wrapped up with a total of eleven hunters accomplishing their goal! They are welcomed into the Ohio Youth Wild Turkey Hunt with an understanding that not everyone will have the opportunity to capture a bird during the two-day program. They are often reminded that the sport of hunting has one guarantee – that they’ll have the opportunity to be outdoors and learn key lessons from experienced mentors who have a wealth of knowledge. The youth are encouraged to soak up as many tips and tricks they can that will help them become safe, successful hunters in the future.
There are a lot of individuals who make this hunt possible, and they include our guides, mentors, landowners, volunteers, and sponsors. Our staff is incredibly grateful for the role they play in supporting our efforts.
Thank you to the mentors who made it out this year: Matt Light, Todd Harter, Wade Tupper, Jody Goatley, Bob Fulcher, Bufford, Jeff Martin, Kim Strickland, Teri Kline, Kipp Kline, and Ryan Skinner.
A big nod of gratitude to our volunteers: Dave Brown, Nick Camacho, Daren Hiatt, Howie Shafer, Steve Lipps, Dixie Sonner, and Kole Strickland.
A round of applause for “Light’s Leaders”, Carrie Rhoades and Wyatt Rammel. These new “youth mentors” stuck around all weekend to help guide the youth through the hunting process and start them off on their leadership journey!
Kudos to all of the landowners who allowed us to hunt on their property during our annual Ohio Wild Turkey Hunt.
Stay tuned as we venture into the woods with a crew from Rhode Island this weekend!