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Cupit takes turkey in final minutes of lifetime hunt

VIDALIA — Turkeys work on their own time, even in California.

Cole Cupit, 13, had almost given up on shooting a turkey during the hunt of his lifetime at Tejon Ranch in California.

But 15 minutes before his JAKES-sponsored free trip ended and Cole returned to the airport, things changed.

“We were leaving, but one of the guides, Jimmy Rizzo, wanted to try one more time,” Cole said.

“We were headed down the road, and we saw four hens and three gobblers in a group, so we stopped. I snuck up on one of them, and when they started to run off, I shot him.”

Cole of Vidalia won the JAKES — or Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship — trip from the National Wild Turkey Federation in a random drawing.

Cole and his father Mark enjoyed the trip April 29 through May 2.

“He only got to hold his bird for about 10 minutes, then we handed it over to the guides to ship it off (to a taxidermist), and went to the airport,” Mark Cupit said.

Along the ride with Cole and Mark Cupit was Alex Rutledge, a world champion turkey caller. Being able to hunt alongside him allowed Cole to pick up some knowledge about the art of turkey calling.

“I was able to really pick up what they sound like. I also learned when to use certain calls at certain times. There’s a fly-down cackle hens make when they’re coming out of trees that attracts gobblers, and that helps get the gobblers out of the tree,” Cole said.

Being an outdoors person, Cole said the experience was very special for him.

“Everything was beautiful. From the rolling hills to the big mountains, it was a big deal for me seeing the different kinds of terrain.”

His father agreed with him.

“We hunted from grass-covered valleys to snow-covered mountaintops. Cole got to see his first mule deer, elk, mountain quail, prairie dog and coyote,” Mark said.

“It was just what they said it was: the hunt of a lifetime. So far, it’s been the greatest trip I’ve ever been on.”

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