AIKEN, S.C. – Clear skies at daybreak contributed to a successful hunt start for nine of the 15 hunters selected by the National Wild Turkey Federation to take part in the 18th Annual Wheelin’ Sportsman Ultimate Turkey Hunt at the Savannah River Site (SRS) recently.
Clouds on the morning of the second day did not dampen any spirits as a record total of 19 turkeys were harvested over the two-day event.
Hosted by DOE-SRS, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service-Savannah River and the federation, this year’s event was even more special because of a new partner — the Outdoor Dream Foundation. The foundation sponsored three youth hunters with chronic or life-threatening medical conditions to take part in what is possibly the premier wild turkey hunt on the East Coast.
“We grant world class hunting and fishing adventures to children and young adults ages 21 and younger who face life’s toughest challenges,” said Outdoor Dream Foundation President Brad Jones. “Joining the other partners on this awesome hunt allows us to make dreams come true for these special young people and their families in need."
Sponsors of the event include the University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Savannah River Mission Completion, Centerra, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) and the Aiken Sertoma Club.
Safety is paramount during the event. Each hunter was paired with an escort familiar with the site and everyone attended the daily group safety brief. Prior to leaving for their assigned hunt areas, teams were issued a radio to coordinate their movements with event staff. The radios also enabled hunt organizers to quickly coordinate a response in the event of an emergency.
Wildlife biologists from the Forest Service and employees from SRNS were on hand to measure and record harvested turkeys’ weight, beard and spur length, and other data. When combined with past wildlife surveys and hunt results, the information collected will help direct future species management practices on the site.
“Pulling back on the curtain and allowing the public to see and experience the successful land management practices employed on Savannah River Site is just one of the benefits this hunt provides,” said Forest Service Wildlife Biologist Thomas Mims. “We want each and every participant to leave the Savannah River Site with newfound friendships and fond memories that will last a lifetime.”
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