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Vidalia resident Cole Cupit wins an all-expenses-paid hunt

VIDALIA — Cole Cupit couldn’t believe it, so after they told him, he kept asking people if it was true.

Cupit, 13, was recently rewarded by the National Wild Turkey Federation with the JAKES Hunt of a Lifetime as a JAKES Member. His name was randomly drawn out of 300,000 possible selections, which blew him away when they told him at a NWTF banquet in Concordia Parish in February.

“I asked everyone when they got done telling me, ‘What did they just say?’” Cupit said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

JAKES — or Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship — is the federation’s membership program for children and teenagers.

“I’m excited,” Cupit said. “It makes me feel very good. I have grown men that who are jealous of me because of this.”

The hunt takes place April 29 through May 2, at the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch, roughly 68 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The ranch is the largest private range in California.

All costs for the trip, from airfare and lodging to gun and ammunition costs, will be paid. In addition, nationally renowned guide Alex Rutledge will be guiding Cupit and his father, Mark, on the hunt. Also, Cally Morris of Hazel Creek Taxidermy will mount the bird Cupit takes on the hunt.

Cupit’s mother, Alison Cupit, said she was happy her son was selected, given how much he enjoys the outdoors.

“If this were an application process, they couldn’t have picked a more qualified person,” Alison Cupit said. “He’s an avid hunter and outdoorsman, and an all-around good kid. He’s on the honor roll at Vidalia Junior High School.”

And Mark Cupit said he has every intention of keeping his son on the honor roll.

“Grades come first,” Mark Cupit said. “He can hunt and fish as long as his grades are good. If they go down, the extra activities stop. So far, I haven’t had to take anything away. The promise alone seems to have worked.”

Hunting has been a part of Cupit’s life from an early age, Mark Cupit said.

“He started hunting at age 3, killed his first deer when he was 5 and his first turkey at 9,” Mark Cupit said. “He likes to hunt anything. Whatever season it is, that’s his favorite thing to hunt.”

In addition to hunting, Cupit also said he enjoys playing football and baseball, and plans to do both when he gets to Vidalia High School. Cupit also constructs knives as a hobby, and sells them for a small profit.

“I started doing it about two years ago, but I’ve been collecting knives since I was younger,” Cupit said.

The hobby was inspired by a trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn., for spring break several years ago, Mark Cupit said.

“We went to Dollywood and saw people handcrafting them out of railroad spikes,” Mark Cupit said. “Then, we went to the Smokey Mountain Knife Works store, and saw where you could construct them on your own. I spotted him the materials, and it took him several tries, but he eventually got the hang of it.”

On average, Cupit makes $50 to $100 in selling them, but has had them auctioned for as high as $650, Mark Cupit said. However, he doesn’t just make them to sell, Alison Cupit said.

“He also makes them as gifts,” she said. “He made one for his Paw Paw, and some good friends of ours.”

And after May 2, Cupit hopes to have a mounted turkey to go along with the knife collection.

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