KEN PERROTTE: One-Shot Turkey Hunt is rewarding on many levels | Local

BY KEN PERROTTE/FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR

Thirty-four hunters took to the field Saturday in the sixth annual Virginia One-Shot Turkey Hunt. The hunt, canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19, is a fundraiser to support hunting heritage programs in Virginia through land purchases and youth engagement through the Virginia Wildlife Grant Schedule.

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia co-manage the event.

Some hunters make a minimum donation of at least $1,000 to participate. Many, however, are sponsored. Sponsored hunters often include wounded warriors and first responders. This year, hunting scholarship opportunities were offered to children of the Gold Star family. Five other young people were able to hunt by winning an essay contest.

The highest rated turkey is identified by an aggregation of measurements of the bird’s beard, spurs and weight. There are also individual category winners.

All hunters are paired with volunteer guides. This year’s highest rated turkey was killed by Jaime Sigala, hunting in Dinwiddie County with guide Adam Williams.

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Shelby Haynie, one of the winners of the youth essay contest, tagged the heaviest tom, hunting with guide Ben Lewis in Lancaster County. First responder Austin LaFollette took the bird with the longest beard. LaFollette hunted in Amelia County with Denny Quaiff and Dillion Hall of the Virginia Deer Hunters Association.

Kim James won the prize for the turkey with the longest spurs. She was hunting in McKenney with guide Nate Altaffer.

James gets off to a good start as a “grown-up” hunter. She works for DWR but only started hunting last year. I was lucky enough to be able to guide her on her first deer hunt last November. We were hunting a property run by Monquin Creek Outfitters of Chip Watkins. Watkins is also donating several hunts to the One-Shot event.

According to Jenny West, executive director of the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia, this year’s hunt raised nearly $60,000. Twenty-two sponsors participated, including the National Wild Turkey Federation, Green Top Sporting Goods, Dance’s Sporting Goods, Brandt Information Services and online portal Go Outdoors Virginia.

I was lucky enough to be a judge in the recent One-Shot Youth Essay Contests. It reminded me of the 18 years we ran our “Why I Want To Take My Dad Fishing For Father’s Day” contest.

The theme for this year’s One-Shot Essay was “What is your favorite career and why?” Children between the ages of 8 and 14 could enter.

Haynie, one of this year’s winning young hunters, hails from Lancaster. Ben Lewis, his guide, is also a guide for Monquin Creek. Turkeys are his favorite species to hunt.

She wrote: “It all starts in the spring, when the sun rises earlier and the temperatures warm up. Turkeys are intelligent birds with excellent hearing and eyesight. They are a challenge to hunt but are fooled by good lures and an experienced caller. When they come out, we have to be very quiet and stay seated, otherwise it will scare them. My dad does the roll call, usually with just his mouth. Turkey gobblers are fun to watch as they spread their tail feathers and strut around for a hen’s attention. Their “spit and drum” routine is particularly entertaining! »

Some young writers have spoken of the intrinsic rewards of hunting. Sydney Simmons of King George, wrote: “While I can always go to the store or go to a restaurant to eat, something about catching your own food feels different. It’s not a bad feeling though, it’s a great example of being rewarded for your actions. On my two hunts, the deer have provided me with more food than I enjoy.

Then there is the excitement factor.

Isaac Phillips of Hot Springs shared that worrying about missing a chance with a big dollar motivates him to go deer hunting, even in rainy, snowy or windy weather. “The best feeling in the world is the thrill of getting up to go to the deer stand or taking a hike in the woods,” Isaac wrote. “It’s great when a dollar comes in, but even if I can’t pull it off, it’s still so fun to see. I love the feeling I have the day before opening day. C is so hard to sleep because I’m too excited to sleep.

Of course, conservation comes into play.

Owen Fox of Yorktown wrote, “I love hunting white-tailed deer because it takes a lot of skill, precision, determination and hard work. Deer hunting also allows me to spend time with my dad… The people at the hunting club and my dad taught me how to be a better hunter. They taught me to respect deer by never leaving an animal injured and in pain and to take care of the habitat in which they live. They also taught me that hunting is more than shooting.

Garrett Hughes of South Prince George made a point of safety when writing about his favorite quarry, the mourning dove.

“It’s important to know where other hunters stand while hunting because safety is paramount,” Garrett wrote. “Then we head to the cut cornfields. My dad and I are looking for the perfect spot next to a telephone pole to sit and wait for the doves to pass. The sound of a flying dove is very unique. He does not look like other birds. When we see the birds flying overhead, my dad and I both try to shoot the doves as long as they don’t fly too low. It must be above the power line to be able to fire.

Ken Perrot:

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