The refuge and the National Wild Turkey Federation are partnering to provide 10 kids with a chance to learn about turkey hunting and conservation. The inaugural event will be March 28 to 30.
"This is all about the kids," said Monica Harris, visitor services manager for the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex. The complex is composed of seven refuges along a 100-mile stretch of coastline in South Carolina and Georgia.
"We will start on Friday night educating the kids about turkeys and how to hunt them," she said. "Then, the next morning, the kids will go out to the woods to their designated zones and practice what they've learned."
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Each child must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and will also be assigned a mentor to guide them. However, the parents and mentors will not be allowed to shoot the turkeys -- that's for the kids, Harris said.
All children 15 and under are encouraged to apply, and the fee is $5. Hunters don't need previous hunting experience, but they must have passed a state-approved hunter-education course to participate.
Applications are due by Jan. 31, and the drawing to select the 10 hunters will be Feb. 7. Harris said officials limited the number of hunters based on how much quality hunting habitat is available.
"In today's society, kids and people just get absorbed by the other things," she said. "So hopefully this will be a way to continue to connect children to the outdoors and keep that interest going."
Kids will be responsible for providing their own guns and ammunition.
Harris said that after learning and practicing the hunting skills, the hunters will be taught how to process a turkey -- hopefully demonstrating on a bird bagged by one of the young hunters.
This is the first youth turkey hunt, but Harris said the refuges hope to make it an annual event. If successful, she said, it might expand the youth programs to allow for more hunts and of different animals.
That would be in addition to the youth waterfowl and archery hunts the refuges already conduct.
"The hunt may lead us to evaluate our youth hunt programs and look in to what is successful and what we need to change up a little bit," Harris said. "The national trends show that hunting is dropping, so hopefully this event will be a good way to introduce kids to it."
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