ARNOT - About 85 children ages 6-16 and their parents swarmed the sportsman's club here last Saturday for the inaugural JAKES youth turkey and squirrel hunt and field day, sponsored by the Arnie Hayden Memorial chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
In a drizzling, cold rain, the eager outdoor sports enthusiasts - some dressed in camo all the way to their faces - competed for prizes on the first day of turkey season in the state.
The youths were invited to participate in one or both parts of the free event, which organizer Ben Largey said had both field and on-site components.
The day began at daylight with turkey and squirrel hunting. Until 11 a.m., the young hunters and their mentors brought their harvests to the event headquarters for judging. Some 30 volunteers lent a hand.
After a light lunch prepared by the sportsman's club kitchen staff, the boys and girls were given a gun safety refresher course. For some who had never shot a gun before, it was an exciting morning.
Gage Martin, 12, of Blossburg, who recently moved back to the area with his family, was among them.
Martin, accompanied by his dad, Tim, always has been interested in guns, he said, and when he heard about the event, he just had to come.
"I am interested in learning how to shoot and want to get my junior license by taking the hunter safety course," Martin said.
All of the youth participated in shoots for shotgun, archery and pellet gun targets and a pellet gun balloon shoot, according to Largey. Demonstrations included:
Animal track making, using plaster molds, and identification;
Coyote trapping, with Ron Signor, of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources;
Corn Pool. Youth dug through shelled corn in a baby pool to find prizes;
DCNR Trailer, for tree and leaf ID; and
Game preparation for the dining table.
"We were extremely happy with the turnout having close to 90 kids, but I think some might have been detered by the weather," Largey said.
"The Arnie Hayden Memorial Chapter is extremely fortunate to have support for our JAKES events in the form of volunteers and resources. We have formed a wonderful partnership with the Arnot Sportsman's Club, (which) shares a similar vision," he added.
The two organizations already have begun discussions for future JAKES events.
JAKES stands for Juniors Acquiring Knowledge Ethics and Sportsmanship. It is an initiative of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
"This division of our chapter is to encourage youth to get involved in any outdoor activities," Largey said. "We are hopeful that youth will find some aspect of the outdoors they enjoy even if it isn't hunting."
The committee plans to coordinate the event annually and possibly a supplemental outreach event each spring.
The next event tentatively is planned for April 20, 2013 - the day of the youth spring turkey hunt.
Anyone who would like to learn more about the chapter or about the JAKES events may email Largey at firstname.lastname@example.org.