ARNOT - Now before you let that headline rile your country pride, let me explain. A "red neck" is slang for a male turkey, a gobbler. April 20 was the day that youth hunters in Pennsylvania could hunt for spring gobblers, and eight children ages 8 to 14 brought their gobblers into a JAKES contest organized by the Arnie Hayden Memorial Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Arnot Sportsman Club.
"Our chapter wanted to do more with kids, get them involved and outside," said organizer Ben Largey, a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation and a hunter for 20 years.
The JAKES program is an initiative started by the federation. The acronym stands for Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship.
Last November, the chapter held its first JAKES event, to coincide with fall turkey and squirrel season. About 85 kids ages 6 to 16 attended.
The spring event attracted more than 100 youth, who came despite the decidedly unspringlike temperatures, driving wind and intermittent snow flurries. In addition to the turkey hunt contest, they participated in several hands-on shooting workshops and learned how to make and use a turkey call. A dart game and "turkey tag" appealed to younger children, too.
"(Arnie Hayden) would be terribly pleased to see this," Butch Korenkiewicz said of the event. "He really liked kids. He would have loved this."
Hayden, whose name graces the NWTF chapter, was one of the biologists responsible for the proliferation of wild turkeys in Pennsylvania, said Korenkiewicz, his friend.
"Back then, there were very few wild turkeys in Pennsylvania," he said.
Hayden, who spent about 35 years with the state Game Commission, was instrumental in the trap-and-transfer program in which turkeys from more populated areas were moved into parts of the state that were lacking in turkey numbers.
He and another biologist designed the transmitter that was used to monitor the birds' movement and they have been credited with helping to restore the wild turkey population.
Their efforts were much appreciated by the young hunters who hauled in their gobblers for the turkey contest.
"He came in with six hens," Kayla Mengee, 11, of Wellsboro, said of the turkey she harvested on April 20. "He flew above us and went into the woods."
Her uncle, Wade Reese, called to the bird and it reappeared, strutting in front of the blind that hid the two hunters. Mengee fired, downing the turkey at about 25 yards.
It was her first turkey and her first time hunting the species. The gobbler weighed 21 pounds and had a 9 1/4-inch beard. One of its spurs was 1 inch in length, the other 1 1/4 inch.
Mengee finished first in her age group, 11 and younger. The big winner, with the largest turkey and the top overall score of 67.87, was Jake Vandergrift, of Wellsboro.
His bird caused an immediate reaction from the adults standing around the check-in table. "That is a one-timer," one hunter said.
Vandergrift's gobbler - his second turkey - weighed 22 1/2 pounds and had a 10 1/2-inch beard. Its spurs were 1 1/2 and 1 1/4 inches long.
"I was only in the woods for 45 minutes," he said.
His tale was short, and ended sweet. He and his neighbor were hunting together when they "heard some hens. He lit up down below us on the left. I saw him and I shot him," Vandergrift said.
The 12-year-old said he's been hunting since he was 6.
"It's fun. I'm interested in it," he said. "I like trying to find them (turkeys)."
Dalton Laubenstein, 14, of English Center, collected his seventh turkey at 6 a.m. when the gobbler stretched out his wings.
"It's good being out in the woods," he said.
Shyanne Ackerman is only 9 but already has about three years of hunting experience. She harvested her first turkey during the youth hunt.
"I saw his red neck and my dad gave me the gun," said Ackerman, of Bath. "I shot (the turkey) in the neck. It wasn't hard."
Kyra Keck's good luck in the field inspired her ill brother to head out, too, but the 12-year-old Wellsboro girl was the only sibling who brought home a gobbler that day.
She was hunting with her dad Darren and cousin Dan.
"We were walking and calling," Keck said, "when we heard gobbling. One turkey popped out."
It took a few minutes, but "I shot him," she said. The 21.14-pound bird was her first.
Bobby Lewis, 8, of Mansfield, said he loves heading into the woods. On this day - his birthday - he left the woods with a nice turkey, too.
The lineup of new hunters is a bright spot for older enthusiasts.
"They are the future of the program," said Matt Hildebrand, a National Wild Turkey Federation member who was helping kids learn how to fire pellet guns. "We need more youth hunters."
Lock is the editor of the Outdoors section.