Local teen talks turkey, wins award

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

LOGANVILLE -- Cody Dunagan will sit down with his family today to eat a traditional Thanksgiving meal, complete with a wild turkey he killed on a hunt earlier this year.

The 17-year-old Dacula High School senior has been hunting since he was 7 or 8 years old, and he killed his first wild turkey five years ago.

Dunagan said it's his hunting skills that helped him win first place in wild turkey management in a state competition earlier this month.

"I've been hunting since I was little," said Dunagan, who studies environmental science through the Grayson Technical Education Program. "I just know (about wild turkeys). I never really sat down and studied it."

During wild turkey season, which begins in March and ends May 15, Dunagan said he and his father and other family members frequently go hunting.

"I go every weekend I can," he said.

Dunagan is one of four FFA (formerly known as the Future Farmers of America) club members who participated in the Georgia Wildlife Management Career Development Event in Swainsboro. The team moved on to the state competition after placing in the top three at a regional event, said Lindsey McLain, the environmental science teacher and FFA club adviser.

The Wildlife Management Career Development Event provides opportunities for FFA members to demonstrate their technical and management skills relating to wildlife, habitat and harvesting regulations.

The team completed a cooperative activity, and each team member participated in a individual activities. In addition to Dunagan, participants were Central Gwinnett senior Phillip Bates and Grayson seniors Tommy Shaw and Justin Butcher.

Overall, the group placed seventh out of 18 teams, and Bates placed fifth in boating regulations and aquatic identification. (Butcher and Shaw competed individually in whitetail deer management and general identification, respectively, but neither placed in the top five.)

In his individual activity, Dunagan was required to demonstrate expertise in two areas related to the wild turkey: call identification and wild turkey management.

"I really didn't do anything special," Dunagan said. "I studied the (event's) Web site a little bit and used stuff I already knew."

His teacher, however, said he prepared for the event by studying a lot.

"I think because he has such an interest in hunting wild turkey, it made it easier for him to study," McLain said. "Hopefully, the information he learned for the competition and this class will help him in whatever career he chooses."

Dunagan said he plans to attend college -- probably the University of Georgia -- and hopes to work for the Department of Natural Resources.