By Toby Benoit
Hernando Sun Writer
I had mentioned in last week’s column, that I’d be spending this past weekend guiding with the Florida Wildlife Commission’s Youth Hunting Program. I wanted to give an update on just how that went because for the young lady and her father, who had been assigned to me for the weekend, it’s one they won’t soon forget. Sadly, there were only six youths that showed up for the hunt camp, but those who did arrive were fired up and eager.
This weekend’s hunt was hosted by our FWC under the direction of their Huntmaster, Bob Roe and was made possible by a partnership with two other remarkable organizations, the first was Matthew Burk’s, 10Can, Incorporated. 10Can’s children and youth program were designed to create what they call, “community impact agents.” It’s their belief that giving youth a purpose reduces misbehavior and increases the quality of life. As well, establishing a moment in time (Rite of Passage) to begin the transition into emerging adulthood, ensuring every child is equipped for success. They teach children how to farm, hunt, fish, and survive in any given situation and their representative at the hunt, Mr. Danny Lovett of Webster, Fl did an amazing job achieving the 10Can goals for these kids!
The second organization invited to participate in the event this weekend was the Offroad United Foundation, led by founder Chrissy Johnson of Hudson, Fl. OUF’s mission is to provide aid and assistance to our nation’s First Responders by raising funds and awareness through off-roading events, last year alone, Chrissy’s OUF donated over $330,000 to First Responders and their families.
The hunting was phenomenal, everybody in that camp was in high spirits and a true pleasure to be around. The property we were assigned to hunt was practically flooded and impossible to maneuver with standard four-wheel drive trucks. That’s why the OUF volunteers joining us was so amazing; they arrived with a small fleet of Jeep monster trucks, which the kids got a huge kick out of, and shuttled us to and from our hunting blinds. I was a little apprehensive though as even with a running start, this fat boy couldn’t climb into one. That issue quickly resolved itself as the Jeepers began building me a staircase of cinder blocks for loading and unloading!
My most cherished friend Meghan Bailes joined me as a guide this weekend and we teamed up with our assigned kids. With only three sittings, we put six different gobblers into gun range for our youth hunters. (Although none were taken. ) To see the excitement on their wide-eyed little faces, was a priceless gift for us. Meghan filmed two gobblers at spitting distance, gobbling into the barrel of one youth’s gun, who was too rushed with adrenaline to fire her shotgun on our final set up of the weekend.
To be certain I’ll be back in the woods this coming Saturday and Sunday for the opening of our general season. I’ll have the honor of guiding Mrs. Kelli Ellis, bride to our county’s most noted taxidermist, Tim Ellis. We’re going to try very hard to give her husband a new work project; mounting her a trophy tom! I’ll be employing my own Rebel Yell brand box call and a Spring King friction caller again to get the job done. I’ll keep ya posted!
Best of luck to all of you taking to the field and chasing them bearded devils and as always, I’d love to hear about your own outdoor adventures and maybe see a photo or two of your successes at [email protected] God bless and good hunting!