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JAKES Day teaches youngsters to respect wildlife, weaponry

POSTED: May 26, 2013 12:47 a.m.

Snakes, scorpions and tarantulas were just a few of the eye-popping sights Saturday as part of JAKES Day at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center.

The Anderson, S.C., foothills chapter of the National Turkey Wildlife Federation sponsors the annual Memorial Day weekend event, which was free and open to the public. It is designed to provide environmental education and fun for the whole family.

“We average somewhere between 1,600 people, and I think the most was 2,063,” said event co-organizer Emory Dunahoo Jr., a Hall County state representative.

The JAKES mantra is in the name — an acronym for Juniors Achieving Knowledge and Ethics in Sportsmanship.

“Our goal is, of course, we try to preserve nature — better habitats for turkeys, deer, all wildlife,” Dunahoo said.

But the event is meant to be fun too, of course.

“We teach kids that you can have fun shooting BB guns, you can have fun throwing hatchets and knifes at target, while promoting safety,” Dunahoo said.

Dunahoo said the event has gained more attention in recent years.

“They come from everywhere. In fact, we have people who plan their vacations now to come up here and do this, and then head to the lake. This was on their stop,” he said.

The event offers a smorgasbord of outdoor education and recreation: BB gun shooting, archery and slip shot, to name a few.

Makeshift cat-fishing holes were set up in kiddie pools as kids learned to bait and lasso in their own catches.

A toddler made his best attempts at ax throwing, with the supervision of adults.

One attendee took her daughter, Riley, for a second time to see the snakes and other creatures in the arena.

“We go camping all the time and she loves critters. She wants to hold all of the snakes. So we’re back for round two,” she said.

Although the 5-year-old was shy about talking, she was not shy about touching, holding and ogling the critters up close, contentedly petting an iguana latched onto her white event T-shirt.

All the activities were made possible by volunteers, sponsors and Hall County, which owns the facility. Cherokee Gun Club donated the skeet ammo, organizers said.

Caleb Griner, shooting sports coordinator for the northwest region of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, set up a “shoot or don’t shoot” exhibit for kids as they made their way back to the arena from the skeet shooting set-up.

“If you’re unsure don’t shoot,” he said. “It’s part of hunter development, and the end goal is to be able to teach others to be good hunters and make safe, ethical and legal decisions when hunting.”

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