The 15th Annual Ohio Youth Wild Turkey Hunt


DARKE COUNTY – It’s hard to believe that the Ohio Youth Wild Turkey Hunt has been taking place for 15 years! It continues to provide a weekend filled with leadership building skills, education, and a lot of fun – all in the outdoors! We welcomed 17 young aspiring hunters, over half being beginners, to our Darke County facility, Chenoweth Trails!

The annual program kicked off with a dinner that invited our experienced mentors, sponsors, landowners who donate their land for the weekend, volunteers, and staff. While Sharp’s Tavern, Winner’s Meats, and Kristi’s Cakes provided us with a delicious meal, guests learned more about our nonprofit organization, witnessed a skit that walked them through how a turkey hunt is executed, and participated in a safety talk by Dwight Edwards (Bufford), a former officer of the Ohio Division of Natural Resources – Division of Wildlife.

After becoming more educated on how to practice all aspects of a safe hunt and the turkey hunting regulations, the youth headed back to camp, where there’s everything a 12-17 year old could dream of enjoying during a weekend outdoor stay–especially in the beautiful spring weather that showed up just before the hunt! After exploring camp and finding their bunks in the yurts, we gathered around to participate in a leadership activity that allowed them to pick a quote, then explain to the group why it was important to them at this time in their life.

After s’mores around the fire, it was quick to bed since there was a 4:00 am wake-up call! They scarfed down Spuds Bakehouse cinnamon rolls, Dixie’s famous biscuits and gravy, then headed to the turkey woods. Soon after sunrise, we received the good news that some young hunters harvested turkeys!

Jacson Cress shot the first bird with hunting mentor, Dwight Edwards – aka Bufford. Shortly after Wade Tupper was calling to tell us Andrew Weiss and Moxon Gilpin tagged out! Next were youth hunters Cash Bubeck, Vera Cox, Mora Menzie, Ethan Hartman, Henry Weiss, Landon Brothers, and Teague Bauman. Their mentors were Kipp Kline, Teri Kline, Matt Light, Jeff Martin, and Jody Goatley.

After the excitement, everyone headed back to camp for a delicious lunch made by our long-time volunteer, Dixie Sonner! She also had help from Jen Eden to prepare soups, salads, and the famous dirt pudding for everyone to enjoy while they told their hunting stories. After lunch, the youth hunters participated in leadership activities that taught them how to be better focused. They also listened to Ernie Calandrelli talk about his time on the pro staff for Quaker Boy and gave them some pointers on how to use turkey calls. They were each provided turkey calls – thanks to our amazing sponsors who donated them.

They mingled with their new friends, played gaga ball, and enjoyed the newly built sports court for the rest of the evening! They also enjoyed a buffet of casseroles made by Dixie and Jen. Of course, they couldn’t end the night until they completed a challenging snipe hunt!

By the time day two came around, seven of the youth hunters woke up determined to make their harvest! The trio of Quinten Smith and his mentors, Todd Harter and Wade Tupper, wasted no time after the breakfast casseroles were served and headed back to camp with a tagged bird! Soon after, Corbon Kemper with mentors, Bob Fulcher and Matt Light, came strutting into camp holding the largest bird of the weekend! Our sponsor, Bettker Taxidermy, offers a mount for the largest bird! This year, Mr. Skinner donated two fan mounts to the second and third largest birds as well!

Right before we all gathered for lunch, Caleb Sargent and his mentors Andy Turpen and Ryan Skinner completed their goal, too! Although Paislee Leighton, Clair Rammel, Mak Whitton, and Matthew Denlinger didn’t get a harvest, they still saw birds, learned a lot, and were eager to give it another try later on in the season.

Francis Furniture provided the entire crew with famous Maid-Rites for lunch! Then, in what felt like a blink of an eye, it was time to clean up camp and pack our bags to go home.

All the young people who earned a spot in the camp are greeted at the Ohio Youth Wild Turkey Hunt with an understanding that not everyone will capture a bird during the two-day hunt. We often remind them that the sport of hunting guarantees one thing – the opportunity to be outdoors and learn key lessons from experienced mentors with a wealth of knowledge. They are encouraged to soak up as much information, tips, and tricks that will help them become safe, successful hunters in the future.

There are a lot of components that make this hunt possible, which includes our guides, mentors, landowners, volunteers, sponsors, and our staff.

Thank you to the mentors who made it out this year: Matt Light, Ernie Calandrelli, Chuckie, Todd Harter, Wade Tupper, Jody Goatley, Bufford, Jeff Martin, Teri Kline, Kipp Kline, Bob Fulcher, Andy Turpen, and Ryan Skinner.

A big nod of gratitude to our volunteers: Daren Hiatt – also a board member, Dave Brown, Howie Schaefer, Steve Lipps, Nick Camacho, Dixie Sonner, and Jen Eden.

New this year, we invited young people who have proven to be leaders through this camp in the past an opportunity to attend as Light Leaders. They included Libby Harter, Bohdan Menzie, Trey Rammel, and Trevar Martin. They were a tremendous help with camp clean up and guiding the leadership activities!

Kudos to all the landowners who allowed the youth to hunt on their property.

A lot of area businesses and nationally recognized hunting brands have graciously stepped up to make this possible too! We were awarded a grant from Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Mossy Oak outfitted each hunter with a pair of pants, a shirt, and hunting gloves! The Big Tom sponsors included Greenville Moose Lodge, OnX Hunt, and Thompson Center. The next level of sponsorship being the Full Strut Sponsors includes Stachler Concrete, Koenig Equipment, and NWTF – Ohio Chapter. Next up are the Long Beard Sponsors, which include Quaker Boy, Leslie Gunckle, Bettker Taxidermy, Denlinger Home Solutions, Bobcat of Troy, Dayton, and Mercer, Hevi-Shot, and MM Defense. Our Gobbler Sponsors showed up BIG this year, including: Abel’s Barber Shop, Alps Outdoorz, Altera Alpaca, Bass Pro Shops, Eikenberry’s IGA, Francis Furniture, Frank Miller Lumber, Godown Farms, King’s Poultry, Kline Timber Company, Kristi’s Cakes, NWTF, Pheasants Forever, Primos, Prosperity Promotions, Sharp’s Tavern, Channel Seed–Sonlight Farms, Spuds Bakehouse, Trigger Outdoors, Vandalia Range & Armory, Winner’s Meat Farm, Woodhaven Custom Calls, and Zegun Arms.