I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to the sound of thunder, and I let out a little groan. The National Wild Turkey Federation’s (NWTF) Current River Callers were hosting a Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship (JAKES) event for young hunters at Twin Pines. Although there were more than 50 kids registered for the event, with this kind of cold, rainy day, I was hoping that we would have at least 30. Volunteers and staff started texting early that morning, asking what our alternate plans were. Finding a date that would work for a majority of the workers was no small task, so cancelling was out of the question.
We started setting up about 10 a.m. for the 12:30 p.m. event, baking cobblers, setting up the grills and popups. Since it was such a cold, rainy day, we decided to set up a comfort station with hot chocolate and coffee for the participants. Little did we know we would be making 30 gallons of hot chocolate.
About noon kids started arriving, and when it was all said and done, we had about 148 kids and parents plus another 30 or so volunteers. It was more than we had registered for the event, so we were a little worried until we saw that everyone got fed. At 1:30 p.m., we held the opening ceremony, and, in spite of the rain, everyone enthusiastically headed for the first of five sessions including shooting air rifles, archery, a hunt-wise trail hike, a turkey calling session and a casting contest. Between sessions, everyone headed for the hot chocolate.
The main hall at Twin Pines filled up quickly after the last event with each kid hoping their name was the last one drawn. The final door prize was for a very nice air rifle donated by Brawley’s Powder Horn with Johnnie Walker Lacey, the lucky winner, but no one left empty-handed. Each child received a goodie bag provided by the NWTF and Twin Pines. But they left with much more—a great day outside and some lessons that help keep them and everyone else in the woods just a little bit safer.
At the end of the day, all the staff and volunteers just looked at each other wide-eyed with big smiles across their faces, much like the kids actually. We all felt a little like the U. S. Post Office. Neither rain, nor cold could keep this group of JAKES from making their appointed rounds to archery, turkey calling and a day they’ll remember for a very long time. The next time it rains on your parade, so to speak, don’t automatically start thinking the worst. You may be in for a pleasant surprise.