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A love for hunting and a well-written essay made Daniel Raikes, 13, of Bradfordsville a national contest winner and won him and his family an all-expense paid trip to Nashville, Tenn., recently.
With encouragement from his mother, Daniel responded to a flyer in a Jakes Country magazine, which is a publication designed for young turkey hunters and is sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). Raikes, along with help from his family, decided to enter a contest in which he wrote a 500-word essay on the topic of why he hunts. After writing the essay in late November of last year, Raikes was notified in January that he had won the nationwide contest, among thousands of entrants.
For his achievement, Raikes received an all-expense paid trip to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., for the NWTF national convention. Daniel, along with his father and mother, Stephen and Christi, two brothers, 11-year-old Eli and 2-year-old Joshua, and his sister, 5-year-old Grace headed to Nashville to be recognized at the top event by the NWTF last week.
Raikes along with his father also will attend an all-expense paid, four-day turkey hunt in Kansas. Raikes and his father will be participating in the Kansas Governor's One Shot Turkey Hunt and will be hunting alongside some celebrities. Raikes will be considered a "celebrity" during the hunt for winning the national essay contest. The hunt will take place from April 12-15.
Raikes has been hunting since age three, and his mom said, "We have home videos of when he went squirrel hunting for the first time."
Christi also mentioned that Daniel loves being in the outdoors and he, along with a majority of his family, hunt a variety of game including turkey, deer, squirrel, and raccoon.
"It's a perfect way to spend time with family members," she said.
Daniel said that he was surprised to be selected as the winner of the contest. "It's an honor to win this award," he said. "I never really gave much thought to winning after I sent in my essay."
Daniel also noted that his mom and dad pushed him a bit to enter the contest. "She told me that there was a chance I might win, so I wrote the essay," he said.
Daniel's father, Stephen, said that none of this would have been possible without the efforts of the NWTF, especially in this area.
"When I was Daniel's age, there weren't many turkey to hunt," he said. "The NWTF has worked and successfully brought turkey to this area, and that has allowed kids like Daniel to hunt."
Editor's note: Daniel's essay appears below
"Why I hunt"
By Daniel Raikes
Why do I hunt? The question should be why wouldn't I hunt? I have loved hunting ever since I could walk and talk. I have watched old videos of me when I was about three where I would put my hands up to my eyes like binoculars and say, "I see a buck deer." I went on my first squirrel hunt with my dad when I was three and became hooked for life. I killed my first turkey when I was six, my first deer at seven and continued from there. I remember going turkey hunting even though I was sick and later found out that I had pneumonia. I just could not stand the thought of missing opening day of spring turkey season!
Now that I've told you a little about myself I want to tell you why I hunt. The reasons that I hunt are to spend time with family, just the joy of being in the woods, and of course the pride and joy of shooting a monster buck or love struck long beard.
I have grown a strong friendship with my dad because of hunting. I enjoy sitting in a stand and listening to all the stories he tells about all the bucks he's taken out of the same tree or even 50 yards from it. When I'm with him and get the chance to shoot a deer or turkey I can really tell he is proud of me and it makes me even happier and more excited. Me and my dad have made a lot of memories and have many stories to tell.
Most of the time, when I get the chance, I'm in the woods hunting. Even if I don't get anything I like just sitting around watching squirrels wandering if a big buck or ole gobbler will be the next thing to come by me. Just being in the woods having a good time is all I could ask for.
I love just being in the woods but when I get the chance to harvest a deer, turkey, squirrel, or anything it gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment. Me and daddy have had many days when we haven't seen or gotten the chance at anything but it's all worth it the day we do. There have also been days where we have seen a big buck or called in a long beard but just weren't fortunate enough to take one. Even though we don't have the best of luck all the time hunting is always fun to me. Hunting is great and will always be on my to do list.
As you can see, hunting is my favorite thing to do. If I'm in the woods with family and have a chance at seeing a big buck or calling in a gobbler I'm happy. No matter where I go I will continue to hunt. Hunting is in my blood and I will be in the woods until I die.