• 82°

Hunters ready to kick off new season

The nearly 500 men and boys expected to gather in northwest Chilton County this Saturday will have one thing in common — a love for hunting.

Union Springs Baptist Church will host the third annual Men’s Hunting Season Kickoff at 6 p.m., offering a free meal and thousands of dollars in prizes to those in attendance, including a top prize of Iron Bowl tickets.

And this year will be the biggest one yet.

“It’s been a real hit,” said minister of music Kacy Mims.

The theme of this year’s kickoff is “Take a Stand,” a play on words using hunting terminology and having a spiritual significance.

That’s an appropriate title, considering the event’s twofold purpose — to provide a fellowship opportunity for men and boys, and to reach out to people in the community and region.

Mims said the idea was also spurred partly by the struggling economy.

“Times being as hard as they are, there are a lot of folks who like to hunt and fish but can’t afford to buy a new item,” he said. “We just feel like we’re serving the community.”

Fifty-two churches were represented at last year’s kickoff, in addition to many who were unaffiliated with a church. In just two years, attendance has skyrocketed from less than 200 people to nearly 500 this year, according to sign-ups.

“It seems to me that hunting is a very common thing in this area,” said Pastor Steve Johnson. “It’s a real good opportunity to use something that’s common to bring folks in.”

Johnson added that the kickoff is not intended to sway people to attend the church. Admission is free, and no donations are taken.

The main course will be Boston Butt prepared by chairman of deacons Heedy Hayes, well known for his cooking. Also, Mark Whitlock of Mark’s Outdoor Sports will speak.

In addition to the Alabama-Auburn tickets, other prizes include a $500 gift certificate to Mark’s Outdoors and items such as binoculars and knives. Prizes are donated by generous businesses and individuals.

“Just about everybody gets something,” Johnson said. “Guys get together and just hang out, and that’s the beauty of it.”

He added that the ladies help out by making desserts and decorating, just as the men assist with ladies’ events at the church.

As for whether or not ladies will be included in this event in the future (and they have shown interest), that remains to be seen.

Reservations are required for this event. For more information about the Men’s Hunting Season Kickoff, visit the church’s Web site, www.unionspringsbc.org. The church is located halfway between Thorsby and Montevallo on County Road 73.