Turkey hunt continues in honor of founder
By Karen Caffarini For Sun-Times Media
Turkey Tracks founder: Eric Corey, of Knox, came up with the idea of taking children with a life-threatening illness on a turkey hunt each year. Corey died earlier this year of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), but the hunt was done in his honor. | Supplied photo
An honorable hunt
The folks at Tony Semple
Foundation for Hope were devastated when they discovered that Knox resident Eric Corey had passed away earlier this year.
“They were moving their offices and hated that they were not here for Eric’s funeral,” Eric’s mom, Carol Corey, said.
So the Michigan-based organization founded by Semple, a former Detroit Lions offensive guard, did something in Eric’s honor instead. It took eight people — seven boys and one girl — on a deer hunt at the Muy Grande Ranch in Michigan.
“Each hunter got a nice buck,” Corey said.
The foundation takes individuals with life-altering conditions on hunting or fishing trips with the purpose of giving them an outdoor adventure of a lifetime. Eric Corey went on one of those trips and had maintained contact with the organization.
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In life, Eric Corey’s passion was hunting.
In death, his parents, Doug and Carol Corey, of Knox, are making sure it’s his legacy.
The Coreys are honoring Eric’s wish that they continue having Turkey Tracks, an annual turkey hunt event that allows hunters with physical challenges to use adaptive equipment and the help of guides to experience a turkey hunt in Northern Indiana. It’s held in Starke County each April through the Eric Corey Foundation.
The first Turkey Tracks was held in 2009 with 10 young adults, each of whom had guides and adaptive equipment to help them hunt. The event has grown each year, said Carol Corey, with 31 handicapped or terminally ill people participating this year, just a few months after Eric’s death from ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, at age 25.
“We dedicated the Turkey Tracks to Eric this year. We probably will every year,” Corey said.
Also done in honor of Eric this year: a ranch in Texas will host one hunter and the Tony Semple Foundation for Hope in Michigan took eight hunters with life-altering illnesses to the Muy Grande Ranch in Michigan.
“Eric’s life was hunting. He said it didn’t matter if you’re sick in a chair or out hunting, you’re still sick. But when he harvested a nice buck he wasn’t as sick anymore,” Corey said.
She said two to three months before he passed, Eric told his parents not to let Turkey Tracks go. “It’s what he wanted,” she said.
Laying down the Tracks
Corey said the idea for Turkey Tracks was born when Eric woke up one morning and asked if he could have a couple of kids over to the house because he wanted to take them hunting. Deer season was just a week away so his mom suggested they wait until turkey season in the spring.
Everything fell into place in the next several months.
Corey called Hunt of a Lifetime and received a list of 10 possible participants. All 10 participated. Her home couldn’t accommodate all those people so she called another organization, which paid the participants’ hotel bills. The local fire department set up a camp where the young hunters brought their turkeys.
“People were blowing their horns, the radio station came and a man from there said we had to keep it going. Eric liked that idea,” Corey said.
Nineteen people participated in the hunt the second year, 29 the third year and 31 this last April. She said during the last Turkey Tracks, about 250 people were served dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, including the landowners who donated their property for the hunt and those who helped financially through the event’s Adopt a Hunter program.
Corey is already starting to prepare for next year’s Turkey Tracks. She is planning a golf outing with a fish dinner and entertainment in March, a major fundraiser for Turkey Tracks. Last year she fed about 600 people. She also has been getting applications for potential hunters.
And Corey said she is looking to expand. She said there will be a turkey hunt in March in Tennessee and a youth turkey hunt for those with disabilities April 19 to 21 in Angola, Ind. The fifth Turkey Tracks will be April 26 to 28.
As Eric used to say, “It’s not about the hunt. It’s about the friends you meet.”
Visit www.turkeytracks.org for more information.