For 4-year-old Wilder Holland, the best part of the 10th annual JAKES Day was shooting a BB gun and a taking aim with a slingshot.
For other children at Saturday’s event promoting hunting, fishing and sportsmanship, it was the hatchet toss ... or the catfish rodeo ... or the skeet shoot. For some, it was their first taste of these outdoor pastimes.
“(The goal) is to get them off the couch,” said Emory Dunahoo, a volunteer organizer for the event. “Stop sitting at home playing video games — we’re trying to teach them that outdoors is fun, there’s a lot of things you can do.”
JAKES, an acronym for Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship, is an annual event sponsored by the Foothills Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Lanier Quality Deer Management Association. It started, in Dunahoo’s words, as “60 kids around a fish pond,” and now draws an estimated 1,800 parents and children to the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center.
With the help of more than 70 volunteers, donation of space by Hall County Parks and Leisure and food from the local Dairy Queen, an event that would otherwise cost about $40,000 to put on is free of charge.
Justin Holland has been taking his son Wilder to JAKES Day since before the boy could walk and now volunteers for the event.
“The biggest thing about it that I love is we’re able to offer a lot of kids in the community an opportunity to pick up a gun and shoot skeet or see pointing dogs in action when they never have before,” Holland said. “Being able to provide that opportunity, and offer it at no charge, is just incredible.”
Bobby Aikens believes JAKES Day can encourage the next generation of outdoorsmen and women in a time when hunting and fishing license applications are on the decline.
“We think so,” Aikens said. “You hear so many families come in and say, ‘I didn’t know you could do this.’”