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Instructor showing youth how to properly load a shotgun

Participants learned gun safety. The youth hunt isn't just about shooting turkeys. It's about teaching young people to become responsible hunters.

Kentucky’s Twin Lakes Beard Bash

Teaching the next generation how to Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.


Story and photos by Josh Honeycutt

Young hunters laugh, run wild and squawk on turkey calls of every make and model. Seasoned guides reminisce, talk turkey and tell daunting stories of the ones that got away. But silence soon takes hold as anticipation builds in the mind of every guy and gal in camp. There isn’t a soul that doesn’t anticipate the hunt to come. Why? Because it’s youth weekend at the annual Twin Lakes Beard Bash in Kentucky. And it begins at sunrise.

The world comes alive in the early pre-dawn. Songbirds sing. Owls hoot. Turkeys gobble. Young hunter Jacob Fisher sits beside me as we wait for the rising sun. Sam Coffey sits a few yards behind us calling softly to the roosted birds. Each gobble sparks a new wave of adrenaline. When we least expect it, a hen launches from the roost and soars through the air. Her feet nearly graze the top of the decoys as she lands. Soon after, the rest of the flock takes to the air. The hunt is on.

I’ve guided at this event for several years. Stories like Jacob’s have been written since the youth hunt’s inception. I look back and think of the kids who have benefitted from this annual event. I consider how, just maybe, we’re making a difference by taking these kids hunting. The whole Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative starts with educating new hunters. It begins by preserving our way of life and will be accomplished by sharing hunting with others.

Making a mouth call

Kenny Weiss Jr. shows how to make a mouth call.

In this mix of grand things, a challenge presents itself. You never quite know how a kid will react to the outdoors. You never immediately know the best way to present it to him or her. I believe this hunt has made an impression on me and other guides as much as the kids. Hunts like this teach adults how to be better mentors. Seeing that we have successfully instilled in youth a love for the outdoors makes all the early mornings and work worthwhile. The smiling faces and expressions of joy from successful hunters in camp each year are a beacon for the future. The more we encourage and nurture a love for the outdoors, the brighter our future will shine.

From the start, the Twin Lakes Beard Bash has been about one thing: the outdoors. More specifically though, this youth hunt has been about taking a complicated concept of conservation and making it simple enough that a child can understand and appreciate it.

This is the seventh year the annual hunt has taken place. This year, 44 kids — 42 boys and two girls — attended. Twenty-two youth hunters were new to this youth hunt. Hunters took 18 turkeys over the weekend. Kyle Davis, 12, shot the highest scoring turkey. It weighed more than 27 pounds, had a 103/8-inch beard and sported 15/8-inch spurs. — Josh Honeycutt

Gobbler headWhat folks are saying about
the Beard Bash

“This is the biggest overnight JAKES hunt in the state. We are already looking to book next year’s hunt.”
Hope Coffey, NWTF Kentucky regional director

“We take kids on their first outdoor experience. Our organization has worked in cooperation with the Twin Lakes Beard Bash for the last two years. I know the kids love the experience and we model a lot of our events from this program.”
William Howard, co-founder, Game Plan, Bowling Green, Kentucky.

“The hunt is an experience for the kids. I think they will remember it for many years to come.”
Billy Davis, guide

“The most fun thing was experiencing all of the stuff that is here.”
Dustin Smith, hunter