On a brisk cold morning with high gusting winds, twelve enthusiastic hunters, twenty-four devoted mentors, and parents waited patiently in their hunting blinds, looking over the fresh snow covering the fields. “Bad weather has been a good omen for us; we have gotten a lot of birds in bad weather,” said the Junction City Hunt Director John Haydock.
Around sunrise, 9-year-old Duber, with the assistance of his mentors Mike and Matt, bagged a nice tom 19lbs. 10 oz and 8″ beard and 3/4″ spurs. Then 15 minutes later, 9-year-old Kaleb and his mentors Zach and Abe bagged a nice tom, 23lbs. 7 oz. and 9 1/2 ” beard and 3/4″ spurs. Veteran Alex, with his mentors Bill and Russ, then bagged his nice tom, 22lbs. 6 oz and 9 1/2″ beard, and 3/4 spurs. Gunner, 15, and his mentors, Bob and Dustin, bagged a tom, 17lbs. with a 9″ beard and 3/4″ spurs. Then 10-year-old Connor, with his mentors Johnny and Jack, bagged a nice 6″ beard hen at 7:35 am. Six minutes later, Veteran Forrest, with his mentors Ken and Raymond, bagged a tom 15lbs 5oz with a 4″ beard and 1/4″ spurs.
At 8:30 am, Veteran Jim, with his mentors Anthony and Zach, bagged a nice tom 16lbs. with a 5″ beard and 1/2″ spurs. With his mentors Ryan and Jerik, Tim bagged a nice tom also, 21lbs. 13 oz, with a 9 1/2″ beard and 7/8″ spurs.
With eight birds down and only four hunters left, the growing excitement among the group was exhilarating. Following a delicious lunch, Robert, Aiden, Dale, and Travis returned to their blinds with their mentors.
Early afternoon Veteran Dale and his mentors, Jeff and Gregory, bagged a tom 22lbs. 10 oz, with a 10 3/4″ beard and 3/4″ spurs. Then 11-year-old Robert and his mentors Marlon and Mark, next in line, bagged a nice tom, 23lbs. 7oz, with a 10″ beard and 3/4″ spurs. Aiden, 15, with his mentors Jeremy and Jess, tipped the scales at a whopping tom weighing 24 lbs. with a 9 1/2″ beard and 3/4″ spurs.
John said, “Two of our assistant youth mentors had been on a previous USSA hunt, and they wanted to give back. As our mentor’s age, we need more young people to step up and mentor. So we paired Raymond and Gregory with our experienced mentors and had mentors mentoring mentors with great success!”
The following morning around 10:30 am., veteran Travis and his mentors Tim and Dave bagged a nice tom, 19 lbs 8 oz, with an 8″ beard and 5/8″ spurs. The kids, vets, and one adult bagged one beard hen and eleven toms.
“Thanks to the mentors and land owners for being so cooperative. The mentors were willing to check their egos at their door again, which is a big thing. When they are willing to move and don’t hang tight to their spot, that allows us to be more adaptable and versatile and made us far more successful the last two years because of it,” said John.
This hunt began and ended on a patriotic theme. The Marine Corps Color Guard came in on Friday night and raised the flag, and three veteran hunters lowered the flag on Sunday, which was quite emotional for all.
Congratulations to all the hunters for getting their first turkey and their courage in not letting the bad weather keep them from enjoying an unforgettable experience with their mentors! Many thanks to the volunteers, donors, and landowners for their continued support in helping to make these dreams come true. God bless!
If you want to get involved or know of a deserving youth or veteran who would like a wish granted, don’t hesitate to contact United Special Sportsman Alliance.