Clad in camouflage and heavy coats, junior marksmen and women set out earlier this month for Dawson Forest.
To bag as many animals as possible during the annual youth squirrel hunt sponsored by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Amicalola Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Jason Roberson, an event organizer with DNR, said the daylong hunt is important because “every year in the state of Georgia, we’re losing hunters.”
“A lot of that is because more emphasis is put on big game,” he said. “With small game, you can involve the kids.”
Roberson added that a hunting adventure like the one Dec. 19 “gets kids away from TV and video games and computers.”
Dawsonville resident John Burel agreed that children are spending more time with electronics and less time in nature.
“They waste too many hours indoors,” said Burel, who came to the squirrel hunt with Robert Chambers and Cody Chambers, 14. “This is a nice break from video games and all that stuff.
“Video games can’t teach marksmanship like hunting. A squirrel’s not that easy to hit. This also teaches kids to observe, because a squirrel’s not that easy to see.”
Prior to the squirrel hunt, 9-year-old Joey Flowers of Dawson County took aim at a paper target with a .22 rifle, while Eric Sanders with the DNR showed him how to hold the firearm.
Christian Harper, 9, also of Dawson County, shot a rifle alongside Flowers.
Grinning from ear to ear, Harper said he planned on a successful day of hunting.
Chris Thomas of Loganville came out to see how many squirrels son, Kyle, 12, could take. It was the family’s second event.
“We were here last year,” Chris Thomas said. “It was nasty, raining and cold. It was miserable. This year, it’s perfect weather. It’s real nice.”
National Wild Turkey Federation member Keith Mulkey said the weather was indeed perfect for the excursion.
“We try to get kids out that don’t usually get the opportunity,” Mulkey said. “The turkey federation’s all about conservation, and the only way you’re going to continue the tradition is getting these kids involved with events like this.”
Roberson said the event, in its fifth year, continues to bring dozens of children back for the thrill of the hunt. The gathering drew nearly 50 children and parents.
“It’s an opportunity for us to get out with the kids and get them involved,” he said.