9-year-old Cadence Pintarelli stands with her Turkey Tracks guides Blaine Bachman of Martin and his father Dave Bachman of Manistee. The fourth annual event gathered youth with disabilities to go on assisted turkey hunts. (Photo by Ryan Lewis)

Turkey Tracks expands, helps more youth hunt

Ryan Lewis, Editor

A local hunting program for children with disabilities is growing.

The fourth annual Turkey Tracks event this past weekend gathered 17 youth from throughout the region and paired them with local guides to hunt turkey on private land.

For many, as with 9-year-old Cadence Pintarelli of Martin, this is their first chance to hunt.

“When we showed a video of my uncle, he killed a turkey—and I wanted to try it too,” she said, speaking to the Union Enterprise at the Gun River Skeet & Trap Club in Plainwell.

The club hosts a catered dinner and auction, and many of its members donate everything from their clubhouse to their time to ammunition to participants.

Cadence’s mother Rebecca said her brother-in-law discovered this foundation after Cadence had started showing interest in hunting.

Pintarelli said, “A lot of people in my family hunt, so she would hear about it.”

They applied and were accepted. Guiding them around an area east of Wayland were Blaine Bachman of Martin and his father Dave Bachman of Manistee.

She said Cadence had a stroke when she was only a month old.

“So, she has right-side deficits,” Pintarelli said, which would normally make it difficult to handle a gun. “They have gear here to help her, like stands for the guns.”

Cadence, a Brandon Elementary School third-grader, said, “I’m trying to make my mommy proud. It’s going to be fun. If I don’t kill a turkey, I’ll try again for next year!”

Mike Bosch of Plainwell sits on the local Turkey Tracks board, a nonprofit. His own middle-school-aged son Daniel lives with Hurler Syndrome, a genetic disorder that means his body doesn’t make a cellular enzyme used to break down sugars.He said the volunteers try to make sure as much as possible during the weekend is free for the participants and their families, including lodging at the Comfort Inn.

He was pleased to see that the nonprofit could support more hunters than last year.

“We have 17 hunters this year, including two girls, all between the ages of 8 and 21,” Bosch said. “We’ve got a couple 21-year-olds; this will be their last time to be able to come out with us. It’s exciting. For some of them, it will still be their first time hunting.

“We’ve got kids with everything from spina bifida, to cerebral palsy to brain trauma from an accident, all from different walks of life.”

Gun River Skeet & Trap Club president Craig Maclaine said familiarity had made hosting the event each year easier, despite it expanding.

“We get a lot of support from local businesses for this event, too,” he said.

Bosch said the club had been phenomenal, along with many others.

“A lot of people have been helping us out for this—the volunteers, the sponsors,” he said. “We have a lot of new helpers coming from as far as Grand Rapids and as far south as Indiana to help guide as well as many local people.”

All of that work is focused on providing a good time for the participants, help them meet other youth facing similar experiences and make new friends.

Bosch said, “It’s about having fun and giving these kids this opportunity.”

He pointed out Department of Natural Resources officers attended the banquet, as did Michigan State Trooper Ian Fields, who demonstrated his work with his canine partner, Boomer.

Turkey Tracks was started by the late Eric Corey of Knox, Ind., in 2009. An avid hunter, he started the organization, according to the website, “to make sure other young adults with mobility challenges like him can experience the joy of hunting.”

For more information, visit TurkeyTracks.org.

Contact Ryan Lewis at rmlewis@allegannews.com or (269) 673-5534.

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