‘Off Their Phones & In The Woods:’ Annual JAKES hunt another success

Published 3:37 pm Saturday, May 13, 2023


Members of the NWTF Mississippi Oxford Chapter are no strangers to getting youth off their phones and out in the woods.

And for the seventh year, the Oxford Chapter recently hosted their JAKES event, which also includes a youth banquet and a mentored hunt.

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“When I joined the NWTF about eight years ago, we didn’t have an event for our youth like some of our neighboring states,” said Deanna McClarty, NWTF Oxford Chapter volunteer. “We wanted to create something in Mississippi that engages our youth and turns them into lifetime turkey hunters and conservationists.”

Over the years, the Oxford Chapter’s JAKES event has grown to garner participants from all over the Magnolia State, and even from neighboring states. But the Oxford JAKES event is more than a hunt; for Jackson and the rest of the Oxford Chapter, it is both a way to diversify their annual banquet and to get kids involved with the NWTF.

“When we started hosting our chapter’s annual banquet, it was mainly men that attended,” McLarty said. “We made it to where if you want to be drawn for the youth hunt, you have to attend our banquet. This was a way to grow our banquet attendance and get the whole family involved with what the NWTF is doing.”

Youth that attend the banquet are eligible to be drawn for a chance to go on a mentored youth turkey hunt. When the JAKES hunt first started seven years ago, five youth hunters were given the chance to go out in the woods and harvest a bird. Today, though, the event has grown to take about 15 kids out each year. This is made possible due to the generosity of local landowners and mentors.

“There are so many people that make this event possible, and we couldn’t do it without any of them,” McLarty said. “My fiancé Bruce has also played a large role in keeping the hunt going, from helping me organize to being a mentored guide every year. It takes the whole village.”

Before the youth gear up to hunt, they attend the Oxford Chapter’s JAKES banquet, which includes giveaways, turkey hunting safety, and NWTF district biologist Derek Alkire joined the event to discuss conservation and turkey biology.

This year, six of the 16 youth hunters were fortunate enough to fill their family’s freezer with some wild turkey meat.

While Jackson recently stepped down as the Oxford Chapter’s president, her daughter is currently the chapter president and they both have no intentions of slowing down.

“Our goal is to keep growing this event over the years and keep getting kids off their phones and in the woods,” McLarty said.

Established in 1981, the NWTF’s JAKES program is dedicated to informing, educating and involving youth 17 and younger in wildlife conservation and the wise stewardship of our natural resources. JAKES events help pass on the traditions of responsible hunting and teach the principles of habitat management, hunting ethics and safety.