The 14th annual Youth Wild Turkey Hunt at Chenoweth Trails was a weekend filled with leadership building skills, education, and a whole lot of fun – all in the outdoors! We welcomed 17 young aspiring hunters, mostly beginners, to our Darke County facility to sleep in yurts nestled in the woods.
The annual program was kicked off with dinner that invited our experienced mentors, sponsors, landowners who donate their land for the weekend, volunteers, and staff. While we enjoyed a delicious meal provided by Sharp’s Tavern, Winner’s Meats, and Kristi’s Cakes, guests learned more about our nonprofit organization, and participated in a safety talk provided by Mark Schemmel from Ohio Division of Natural Resources – Division of Wildlife.
After becoming more educated on how to practice all aspects of a safe hunt and the turkey hunting regulations, they headed back to camp, where there’s everything a young person could dream of enjoying during a weekend outdoor stay – especially in the beautiful weather we had! After exploring camp, we gathered around the fire pit with s’mores for a fireside chat about the essay topic they wrote about to earn their spot in this unique outdoor experience: How to remain focused in a world full of distractions. Troy Eden, Light Foundation COO, was on hand to present a very powerful message to the young students about how valuable they are no matter the battles they go through.
It was quick to bed since there was a 4:00 am wakeup call! They scarfed down Beanz Buttercream Bakery cinnamon rolls and headed to the woods. Soon after sunrise, we heard the good news that some turkeys have been harvested!
The first bird down was shot by Trevar Martin with hunting mentor, Ryan Skinner – Mossy Oak and Woodhaven Custom Calls Pro Staff. Shortly after, Dwight Edwards – aka Bufford was calling to tell us Caleb Baker tagged out! Next was youth hunters, Ben Traxler, Ben Hartman, Ryan Rosinski, Jasen Godown, Wes Keller, Brock Durst, and Libby Harter. Their mentors were Todd Harter, Wade Tupper, Kipp Kline, and Ernie Calandrelli.
After the excitement, everyone headed back to camp for a delicious lunch made by our long-time volunteer, Dixie Sonner! She also had help from Leslie Gunckel, Jen Eden, and Krisiti Neanen to prepare soups, salads, and the famous dirt pudding for everyone to enjoy while they told their hunting stories. After lunch the youth hunters participated in leadership activities that taught them how to be better focused. They also listened to Bufford talk about his time as a Wildlife Officer and answered any questions they had about the career. By the end of the conversation, half of them were considering that career path!
The rest of the evening was spent battling in a tough corn hole competition, mingling with their new friends, gaga ball, leadership games, and fort building with natural resources – oh and some snipe hunting after dark! They also enjoyed a new camp recipe that quickly became a favorite – grilled chicken with ranch and bacon!
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 Mak Whitton and his mentor, Bufford, were on their way back to camp with a tagged bird! Soon after, Ethan Hartman with mentor, Jody Goatley; and Clair Rammel with mentor Matt Light and Wade Tupper, completed their hunts too! Although Corban Kemper, Memphis Hughes, Matthew Denlinger, Moxon Gilpin, and Cali Harter didn’t get a harvest, they still saw birds and learned a lot!
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! Then what felt like a 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 12 youth 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 hunt. They are reminded often that the sport of hunting has one guarantee – that they’ll have the opportunity to be outdoors, learning key lessons from experienced mentors that have a wealth of knowledge. The youth hunters are encouraged to soak up as much information, tips, and tricks that will help them become safe, successful hunters in the future.
There are a lot of components that make this hunt possible, which includes our guides, mentors, landowners, volunteers, sponsors, and our staff.
Thank you to the mentors who made it out this year: Matt Light, Ernie Calandrelli, Chuckie, Todd Harter, Wade Tupper, Jody Goatley, Bufford, Jeff Martin, Teri Kline, Kipp Kline, Andy Turpen, and Ryan Skinner.
A big nod of gratitude to our volunteers: Daren Hiatt – also a board member, Dave Brown, Howie Schaefer, Steve Lipps, and Dixie Sonner.
A round of applause for our Light Leader and past hunter – Caleb Hartman. He stuck around all weekend to help guide the youth through the hunting process and start them off on their leadership journey! And he offered a worship service on Saturday night!
Kudos to all of the landowners who allowed the youth to hunt on their property.
A lot of area businesses and nationally recognized hunting brands have graciously stepped up to make this possible too! Gobbler Sponsors include Lacrosse Boots, Mossy Oak, Bass Pro & Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, AES Foundation, Stachler Concrete Pumping, Koenig Equipment, Inc., Rolling Thunder, and Thompson Center. The next level of sponsorship being the Long Beard Sponsors include David C. Trimble, Bettker Taxidermy, Winner’s Meats, Sharp’s Tavern, Quaker Boy, and Winchester Ammunition. Next up are the Gobbler Sponsors, which includes Eikenberry’s IGA, Pheasants Forever, Francis Furniture, Zegun Arms, Frank Miller Lumber, Vandalia Range & Armory, Inc., Sonlight Farms LLC, Kline Timber Company, VPP, NWTF, Beanz Buttercream Bakery, Woodhaven Custom Calls, Sarge Knives, Leslie Gunckel, ALPS Outdoorz, Primos, Prosperity Promotions, OnX Hunt, Godown Farms, and Kristi’s Cakes.