On January 6, 2007, the third annual squirrel hunt hosted by Hurricane Creek Hunting Club took place in Lumpkin County on private property. We began this program three years ago after WRD reported declining hunter numbers and declining license sales. We wanted to help.
One of the things we decided to do was host an annual squirrel hunt for kids. We hoped this effort would give the youth of Lumpkin County positive exposure to a great recreational activity, as well as keep them off the streets. Originally we contacted Judd Smith with WRD to discuss this matter, and he explained that Lumpkin County had nothing like this and that he could get the necessary equipment to have a skeet shoot before the squirrel hunt if we could select the kids and supply the squirrel dogs and guides.
Club member Gordon Ricketts, who had suggested the squirrel hunt/ skeet shoot, made the contacts to secure the squirrel dogs and handlers, and our club provided the guides. In addition, Gordon also contacted some of the local businesses for donations of food and drinks. He also got in touch with Primos, Realtree, and Bargain Barn who supplied hunting equipment. Coal Mountain Timber and Dahlonega businessmen donated the money to buy the equipment. We even received gravel from Vulcan Materials which we spread around the shooting sites.
To select the kids for this event Gordon contacted Stacy M. Jarrard, an investigator in the sheriff’s office who is also the Region I coordinator of the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program for Lumpkin County. This program is youth-oriented and is invaluable to the county. Stacy does a great job with these kids.
Stacy proposed that we have an essay contest, and we could pick the kids based on their essays. Some of these essays would bring tears to your eyes and definitely showed the tremendous love the kids have for their families regardless of their situations. One of the more pleasant surprises we had when reviewing these essays was the number of young girls who wanted to participate in the hunt. This trend has continued for three years, and believe me, some of these gals can shoot.
This year Stacy had 20 essay entries for our hunt, five of them were from girls.
He posed one simple question to the kids, “Why do you want to go on the Hurricane Creek squirrel hunt/skeet shoot?” We added 10 kids to the hunt for a grand total of 30 kids. We had six dog handlers available, so the math became easy; five kids, a dog handler and one guide per group for a total of six groups. Off they went. The squirrels weren’t safe.
While the groups were hunting, Stacy, Gordon, and Betty Frady, my wife, reviewed the essays to determine the winner and runner-up. Each was to receive a doe deer hunt next year on the club property. The kids really liked this and the rules were simple: One, no parents allowed, except to transport the kids to and from the hunt. Two, each kid would go on a scouting trip in the morning with a club member to learn what sign to look for, where to locate a stand site, etc. Three, each kid would have his/her own personal guide, who would give instruction on safety, entering and leaving a stand site, what to look for while on the stand, etc.
The judges selected Cody Harkins for writing the best essay and Breanan Bealy as the runner-up; both were very happy for the opportunity given them.
It didn’t seem too long before groups returned with stories of the hunt. The final tally was 19 squirrels.
The skeet shoot was segregated into two groups… the gals and the guys. Judd set up four stations where the kids were to shoot. Each kid had WRD personnel or a club member to assist in the shooting for safety concerns. The winner in each group would have a shoot-off to determine the overall winner. The winner in each group would win a doe deer hunt with the same guidelines as above. After everyone had busted a few to warm up, the event began in earnest.
Cortney Greer won the event for the gals, and Cody Chambers won in the guys division and the shoot-off. Both received a doe hunt next year.
Is all this work with kids worth it? Should we have it again next year? Come by next year and talk to the dog handlers and the guides; ask them what makes them show up each year, have a hotdog or hamburger, and look into the face of an 8-year-old who has just busted his first clay pigeon.
Allow me to close with these two thoughts. What is wrong with our youth growing up in a better world? What is wrong with the adults leaving a better world?