Date: Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Cold but happy group of Veteran Hunters and Pheasant Forever dog handlers. The dogs weren’t even cold.
What better way to implement our Save the Habitat Save the Hunt initiative than to take a group of American heroes pheasant and chukkar hunting? The Kinzua Allegheny Longbeards did just that on Tuesday, November 12, 2013 when they hosted their second annual Wheelin Sportsmen’s Veterans Day hunt.
Last year the event was held in Warren, PA. The event grew so much in just one year that organizers needed to find a larger place which would accommodate more veterans. The event stayed on the Allegheny National Forest and was held at Buzzard Swamps. The Pennsylvania Game Commission releases pheasants in that area routinely during small game season. The area has long been a popular spot for hunters, trappers, anglers, hikers, bikers, and cross country skiers to recreate.
The day began at the Marienville Veterans Club. PA National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) staff, volunteers, veterans, USFS employees, and members of local Pheasants Forever chapter #630 of North Central PA gathered there to begin a day which was filled with food, friends, and firearms.
Pheasants Forever volunteer Leon Blashock, gave the group a phenomenal talk on how to safely hunt over finely trained dogs brought by PF members. Rob Fallon, Marienville District Ranger, was on hand to welcome the group to the forest and give a little background on the cooperative habitat management currently being done at Buzzard Swamps with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Community and veteran organization support for this event was phenomenal. Forest County donated their vans and handicapped accessible buses to shuttle the hunters from the Veterans Club to Buzzard Swamps. The Ladies Auxiliary at the Veterans Club donated a very tasty, hot meal for everyone to enjoy after the hunting was over. The Youngsville American Legion purchased all the pheasants and chukkers that were stocked for the hunt. Several other area veterans clubs and organizations (including: Sugar Grove American Legion, AMVETS Post 50, John Gertsch Memorial Home Association, Pequignot Yeager Post #8803, Tri Boro Post 4965 Home Assoc. Inc., Marienville Vets Club, and Sheffield Vets Club) also made donations to support the event.
There were games, raffles, and various activities for the veterans to participate in when their group was not hunting. Robbie Anderson, a master wood carver who has a passion for helping anything veteran related, donated his artistic talent and hand carved a Henry .22 for the chapter to raffle. The veteran who won that gun was smiling from ear to ear! Anderson was also at the event giving wood carving lessons and demonstrations to anyone who wanted to learn. Of woodcarving, Anderson stated “It is a therapeutic way disabled veterans can make a good living after coming back home from war.”
There was also an archery range set up outside the club for veterans to try their hand at crossbows or Genesis bows. Some shot a bow for the very first time that day.
Hunting began around 10:00 am with 20 veterans taking to the field, shotguns in hand, and eager dogs nearby. It wasn’t long before the first shotgun blast was heard, and the rooster continued in flight. The day would progress much like that first shot, except that many birds were not quite as lucky as that first rooster. I had the privilege of walking with two brothers, ages 77 and 79. Even in their golden years, their sense of humor and sibling rivalry was strong; however, neither one could hide their boyhood grins as we returned to the buses, with their pheasants and chokers. The conversations and comradery were second to none. I can only hope that those battle hardened, misty eyed veterans who shook my hand and said ‘Thank You’ have the slightest clue how thankful I am for what they have done for this country.
The age range of the veterans we had hunting that day was 23-80 years old. Young or old, disabled or active duty, veteran or volunteer, all had a great time and made memories to last a lifetime! Some of the veterans who hunted with us last year could not make it this year as they continue their missions in the far reaches of this world to protect our homeland. This is just one of many examples of the NWTF partnering up with other like minded conservation organizations to multiply the efforts of both organizations.
If you haven’t done so recently, thank a vet for protecting your freedoms to hunt and fish!