Mike Hackley has a full time job. Thus, when he is on leave, he can go hunting and fishing outside.

“I only work so I can hunt,” he said during a recent visit to the Star-Exponent.

A venerable local legend when it comes to being an outdoor enthusiast, the 58-year-old Winston native enjoys sharing his passion with local youth. For many years, and counting, Hackley has mentored newbies on their first spring wild turkey hunts.

Spring Turkey Hunting Weekend for Youth and Apprentices takes place on Saturday and Sunday, April 2 and 3, and you can be sure he’ll be out there in the woods leading a new generation. of nature lovers.

“It’s the country life here that many don’t take the time to think about, but these days learning outdoor skills is probably the smart thing to do – you never know these days when they might be helpful,” Hackley said. “Even if you lose your job, a deer, turkey or fish will top up your food bill.”

He worked at local brake manufacturer Continental Teves for 17 years, until recently. The German company announced in 2020 that it would close its Culpeper plant in 2024, cutting more than 200 jobs.

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Hackley has seen colleagues fired.

“People were begging for a deer. Also, we hunters donate to Hunters for the Hungry, which helps feed many homeless people,” he said.

Hearing that his employer was moving operations to China, Hackley said, he went to work as a jail deputy at the Culpeper County Sheriff‘s Office. He graduated from the police academy last year at the age of 57, noting that his active lifestyle has prepared him well for the physical challenge. Others at the academy much younger than him didn’t fare as well.

“I love Culpeper and I believe in service,” Hackley said.

When he’s gone, Hackley wants to be outside and he’s looking forward to chasing the gobblers this weekend.

“Turkeys are like magic birds,” Hackley said. “People go zonking for them – they can’t even pull the trigger sometimes.”

He added: “I always take a kid on a turkey hunt for the first time.” Hackley will be there again this year for the youth weekend, for 15 and under.

Last year, 24-year-old Peyton Foreman went on her first hunt with the family friend. He grew up in Washington, DC but has family in Culpeper County, where he now lives.

The Planet Fitness personal trainer was so moved by the experience with Hackley that it inspired him to write a descriptive story about that first hunt, as featured in today’s paper.

“After it happened, I had to pass this on to people, tell this story to anyone – it was so special,” Foreman, of Rapidan, said in a phone call.

His family has known the Hackley family for most of his life.

“A lot of things made it special for me…one of the things was just being out there in nature in the spring, seeing everything that was alive…insects, birds, plants, just seeing the life and being part of something bigger than myself,” Foreman said. “The bottom line is Mike, his skills and his ability to deal with nature.”

Hackley hunted his first wild turkey at age 9 in Culpeper, one of 13 children.

“I used to hear them in the woods,” he says.

So he took an old 12 gauge shotgun and went looking for the birds.

“I learned by trial and error,” Hackley said.

As an adult, he began sharing what he had learned, including attending turkey hunting seminars for Cedar Mountain Youth. There’s always a story to be shared with the hunt, he says, and the camaraderie. But there’s just something about being in the elements.

“You’re alone, detached for a moment from all the hubbub, no news, no people,” Hackley said. “Right out there in the wild and it’s peaceful even if you don’t get anything… A bad day of hunting is better than the best day of work.”

Spring Turkey Hunting Weekend for Youth and Apprentices runs statewide on April 2-3, according to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Services. The bag limit is one turkey per young or apprentice hunter.

Young resident and non-resident hunters 15 and under or holders of a valid apprentice hunting license may hunt when accompanied and directly supervised by an adult over 18 holding a hunting license valid from Virginia. Hunting times range from half an hour before sunrise to sunset.

Virginia’s regular spring turkey season runs from half an hour before sunrise until noon April 9-24.

From April 25 to May 14, turkey hunting is permitted half an hour before sunrise, until sunset. Arrow guns are allowed, according to the wildlife services, along with modern firearms, archery equipment, muzzle-loading firearms, decoys and blinds. It is illegal to use electronic calls or dogs, except dogs may be used to track injured or dead turkeys.

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