Thursday, April 12, 2007

A great story about our NWTF banquet and Brandon!

Thank you to Ken Perrotte who wrote a wonderful article about the NWTF banquet and the Scholarship for Brandon McGuire!

Reprinted Courtesy of Ken Perrotte and the : Fredericksburg Free Lance Star
Please go check out the Free Lance Star it is a great paper with a strong outdoor program.

Mentor helps youngster become hunter

Ken Perrotte's outdoors column

Date published: 4/12/2007

MEMBERS OF the Fredericksburg Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation opened hearts and wallets for a number of causes Saturday night during their annual banquet.

Nearly 230 people attended the event at the Eagles Club, according to Bill Newman, one of the event organizers. Scanning the crowded room, it appeared at least 10 percent of the attendees were boys and girls, many attired in camouflage, and ranging in age from 6 to 16.

One of the more unique stories of the evening was a $1,500 scholarship given to Brandon McGuire, a 17-year-old high school senior from Chesterfield County who plans to attend Hampden-Sydney College in Farmville.

Brandon had attended a JAKES Day (a special outdoors-oriented day for NWTF-affiliated youth) at the Fredericksburg Rod and Gun Club three years ago.

His mother, Holly McGuire, a single parent, brought him to the event in an effort to satisfy the boy's desire to become a hunter.

McGuire's cousin, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologist Steve Owens, helped Brandon develop his outdoors interests, encouraging attendance at squirrel hunting workshops and other sponsored programs that help build young hunters' education and skills. He also mentored his young nephew during occasional trips to woods and waters.

Still, according to Brandon, an important component was missing.

"I have uncles that hunt and fish, but have never really had that father figure who could take me out," Brandon explained.

Enter Kevin Paulson, local proponent for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and an ongoing partner in NWTF programs, plus a dad with a handful of kids in his house.

"At the JAKES Day, Kevin Paulson was there and I think my mom had given him our information in the hope that someone would take me hunting. Within a couple weeks, he contacted us and said, 'When do you want to go hunting?'"

Paulson became the boy's dedicated hunting mentor, taking him on a number of deer hunts. He even let him tag along on a Montana elk hunt. Brandon's turkey hunting efforts fall into the "close, but no gobbler" category, but he is optimistic success will come soon.

Paulson worked with NWTF on developing the new scholarship program, which was funded from local NWTF chapter revenues and, a Web blog Paulson started and is transforming into a more complete hunting-oriented site.

Chapter officer Richard Rose said the scholarship is expected to become an annual feature at the banquet.

Paulson calls Brandon a "remarkable young man."

Between Brandon's realization of his hunting dream, his acceptance into college and last week's scholarship, Holly McGuire said she couldn't be happier or prouder of her son, adding, "This is what every parent hopes for, isn't it?"

The banquet's live auction was jump-started with bidders digging deep to win claim to a cheesecake being sold to benefit the American Cancer Society. A $1,000 bid by Hugh Cosner, a founding member of the Fredericksburg NWTF group, eventually capped the bidding.

Prior to dinner, past chapter president Tom Worrell read a self-composed "Turkey Hunter's Prayer," a heartfelt piece of prose that referenced the importance of passing along a hunting heritage. Banquet attendees who are military veterans or currently serving were also asked to come forward to receive acknowledgement and a commemorative pin from the NWTF.

Youth's Snowy Success

A number of youngsters attending the NWTF banquet had spent the morning hunting, as last Saturday was also the day Virginia sets aside annually for youngsters to hunt turkeys. The kids get to learn from adult mentors on that day, but don't have to compete with them for opportunities at a gobbler.

Hunters awakening to snow-covered trees and fields surely let out a collective groan at the less than optimal conditions. Still, enthusiasm won out over dismay at the untimely snowfall and plenty of adult-child hunting teams reportedly took to area woods.

For 12-year-old Kyle Sullivan of southern Stafford County, the snowy scene made his first taste of turkey success all the sweeter.

Kyle has successfully hunted deer before, but had never scored a gobbler. He was hunting with Eric Sullivan, who is not related to him but works with Kyle's grandfather, Robert Sullivan.

Sullivan knew his turkey-calling prowess would be challenged with the wintry weather.

"I thought we were going to waste our time," he said. After walking for about an hour, though, the hunters got a bird to gobble in response to a crow call at 7:15 a.m.

"We put a decoy out and I set up against a tree. Eric moved back and called, but nothing happened for the next hour," Kyle said.

They were close to giving up on the scenario and Sullivan moved toward Eric. Calling one more time, they were surprised when the now closer bird responded loudly.

"A hen came out first, followed by a jake [a young gobbler] with a 4-inch beard," Kyle said. When the jake was 20 yards away, the boy's 12-gauge shotgun roared and the 15-pound bird folded at the load of No. 4 shot.

"It was exciting. I had never had a wild turkey that close before," Kyle said. "Plus, it sure was a pretty hunt with the snow falling."

Primed for future turkey adventures, Kyle's parting words to Sullivan were, "So, where are we going next Saturday?"

Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or e-mail at