Veterans Get Opportunity To Revisit Great Outdoors
Santa Claus has been checking his list to see who’s been naughty or nice this year. For their generosity and giving nature, the members of the Mason-Dixon chapter of Safari Club International will undoubtedly find themselves on the nice list for 2012.
In fact, if you checked the list for the personal wish of local SCI member Ken Shreve, it would be that the Wounded Warriors at Walter
Reed National Military Medical Center have all of their arms and legs back. These veterans are the same group of men and women who Shreve and fellow SCI members have worked diligently to provide hunting opportunities in Fulton and neighboring Franklin counties through Warrior Hunts.
Shreve told the “News” the premise behind hosting Warrior Hunts originated from a fly-fishing outing with retired Army Col. Darv Stutz, of Falling Spring Chapter Trout Unlimited and Warrior Fly- Fishing coordinator. Shreve said through the adventure he was able to meet vets from Walter Reed firsthand.
Moved by what he saw, the idea was sparked to hold a pheasant hunt in the fall as well as fishing in the spring. As a member of the Hill Country Sporting Estate in Blue Ridge Summit, Shreve said he knew the location would be prime for the Warrior Hunts and quickly enlisted the assistance of fellow SCI members and Hill Country proprietor George Warner.
Mason-Dixon SCI hosted its inaugural event on November 17-18, 2011, at Hill Country, where four veterans were given the opportunity to hunt pheasant. The response by the donors and volunteers as well as the warriors was overwhelming and avalanched into thoughts of annual hunting trips and maybe expanding the offering to include deer hunting.
However, it wasn’t until the March 2012 banquet, which is SCI’s largest fundraising event, that their efforts were expanded additionally to include lodging accommodations and a location to hunt white-tailed deer. According to Shreve, Jim and Gywn Latta of Roaring Run Farm in Crystal Spring happened to be in attendance as guests of local SCI members Clem and Jana Malot. The Lattas were so impressed with what they saw and heard, they offered up their newly remodeled cabin and farmhouse as a lodging and staging area for future Wounded Warrior activities.
On September 7 and 8, a group of four wounded warriors from Walter Reed travelled to Fulton County, where they harvested pheasants at Creek Side Farms of Needmore as guests of owner Keith Fischer. During the same time frame, the warriors were also treated to an antlered deer hunt at Pine Tree Whitetails in Harrisonville, operated by Jeff Huston.
According to Shreve, the club had initially intended on putting on a doe hunt to help manage the herd at Pine Tree Whitetails. Key donations totalling $10,000 raised by Randy Bunch and key corporate contractors, though, allowed the warriors to take aim at some big bucks instead.
The second annual SCI Warrior Pheasant Hunt was again held on October 25 and 26 at Hill Country. The Penn National Community in Fayetteville provided lodging free of charge to the veterans thanks to the efforts of Vietnam vet and Penn National general manager Bill Klimkiewicz, who also organized a welcome reception and barbecue.
Even though some of the veterans have had prior hunting experience, other veterans have only the Warrior Hunts to cite as their time in the field. In fact, the experience has been so overwhelming and exciting that one veteran was prompted to go out and buy his own gun.
“At the end of every event, without fail, every one of them say, ‘You don’t know what this means to me,’” said Shreve of the heartfelt words of thanks shared by the veterans.
Possibly just as touching were the recent efforts of the eighthgrade character education class overseen by Denise Mellott of the Central Fulton School District. As part of the class’s fundraising and community-based projects, the students narrowed down a field of projects to supporting Wounded Warriors with an X-Card shoot. Instead of sending their money directly to Wounded Warriors, the class opted to give their event proceeds to SCI, where 100 percent of the money will be used for Warrior Hunts in Fulton and Franklin counties.
The X-Card shoot held on December 9 at the Fulton County Pistol and Rifle Club overseen by President Bob Strait raised a to- tal $2,750 in entry fees and donations. All costs of holding the event were donated by the club and local business people, Shreve noted.
Furthermore, the class had the opportunity to hear the firsthand experiences of Wounded Warrior Zach Stinson of Chambersburg. Stinson retired from the United States Marine Corps after five years of service and was only released from Walter Reed in November. He was in Fulton County, Shreve said, for the final two days of buck season at the Latta property in Crystal Spring and took time that particular Sunday to meet with the students.
Shreve said even though Walter Reed and the hospital’s Field and Stream manager Ross Colquhoun have no problem filling spots for local hunts, Mason-Dixon SCI is considering opening up the hunting opportunity to local veterans as well. SCI’s next event will be a fishing and spring gobbler expedition in April 2013.
“This group of men are amazing. They are tough. They’re dedicated Americans. They are in the military because they wanted to be. They are fighting a different kind of war than our country has seen before. Their injuries create many challenges for them to work their way back into our society after their tour in the military is over. But they will, and from what I have seen spending time around these guys and gals, they will be very successful at it,” added Shreve.
Anyone wishing to make a contribution to the Warriors Hunts should make their check payable to Mason-Dixon chapter of Safari Club International and include the phrase “Warrior Outing Fund” in the notation line. Donations can be mailed to Fred Waite, president of Mason-Dixon chapter of SCI, 261 Thorton Drive, Mc- Connellsburg, PA 17233.