Early Florida Turkey Hunt Launches 2013 ORHF Hunts for Vets
The Outdoor Recreation Heritage Fund (ORHF) launched its 2013 campaign to help more injured and wounded military veterans heal and rehabilitate by getting them outdoors to hunt, fish and shoot…with a highly successful turkey hunt in southwest Florida, in the Nation’s first turkey season of the year.
Five combat veterans with wounds, a Marine and four Army soldiers, joined ORHF and Mossy Oak’s Turkey THUGS (Today’s Hunters United for Good) television crew for a three-day hunt near Arcadia, FL. Four of the five wounded heroes successfully harvested birds, which was a first time turkey hunt for each. Mossy Oak will feature the hunt on their Turkey THUGS program, scheduled on the Pursuit Channel during the first quarter of 2014.
The hunt was hosted by The Florida Cattleman’s Association (FCA). They made arrangements for the property to hunt on, as well as the lodging and food. Keith Kelley, a Mossy Oak Turkey THUGS pro staff member from Jacksonville, FL coordinated the event with ORHF and FCA’s Executive VP, Jim Handley, who set up the donated hunt on a FCA member’s ranch, and even recruited his brother-in-law to do the cooking.
Kelley said, “Our hunt with these really good guys was awesome. It couldn’t have been put together any better!” Reports from camp indicated they had a challenging experience but hunters had birds moving around them consistently, in spite of hunting in the area’s open ranch land habitat and the cold, windy weather. The food was great, and the camaraderie was top shelf.
“This hunt set a record for laughter among everyone involved and that’s good medicine for the wounded troops,” said Lt. Col. Lew Deal, USMC (ret), a National Mossy Oak Pro Staff member. “Our ORHF outdoor events make a difference in the lives of these deserving patriots. They build support networks of new friends, interact with peers who understand their experiences and gain confidence by successfully tackling new activities.”
Hunters on the first 2013 turkey hunt included Matt Miller (FL ), Tyler Harrell (FL), Miguel Valdez (Austin, TX), Jonathan Page (Austin, TX ), and Dean Adkins ( MS ) .
Lending a hand to make the hunt enjoyable and successful was: Keith Kelley, Jacob Kelley, Jim Handley, Bubba Bruce, and Col. Lew Deal. Cole McCollum and Joe White made up the Mossy Oak film crew.
Jonathan Page, who served four years of active duty and deployment, grew up hunting but took his first turkey on this hunt. He was introduced to ORHF opportunities by a fellow wounded veteran who had been on an ORHF elk hunt. “This hunt was just awesome,” Page said. “Being outdoors, getting in touch with nature was really good for me. And being with other vets who relate to your situation and experience was the best part of this amazing trip.”
Mossy Oak’s Turkey THUGS staffer, Bubba Bruce, couldn’t stop talking about the impact of the experience on his life. “On this hunt, we were putting smiles on these soldier’s faces, which was so rewarding. But I told a friend of mine, if you haven’t carried a wounded vet on a hunting trip you are totally missing out. In a way, it cleansed my life; it just makes you feel good.”
Bruce said several of the vets were quiet and withdrawn when the group first gathered. But he took it on himself to get involved with each one. His outgoing, friendly, “Bubba personality” had a big impact and by the time the event ended, those withdrawn guys were smiling, laughing and interacting with the group. At parting, phone numbers were exchanged and there were enthusiastic “bro-hugs” all around, as the new friendships were cemented in place.
Bubba noted, “I was so impressed with these guys, they were the best mannered young men I have encountered in a long time. You could tell they were military. I’d have to say, in my 40-plus years of turkey hunting, this has to be one of my top two!”
Bruce also complimented Matt Miller on how he handled the hunt. Seems there were small problems with the pump action of the shotgun he was using and the red-dot style sight didn’t work for Matt. However, Bruce said, “After beating on the sight, with a turkey only 20 yards in front of us, he adapted to the challenges and took that bird like a pro.”
Matt’s response was, “This hunt did me a WHOLE lot of good!”
ORHF is actively seeking additional support to help organize and fund more hunts and fishing trips for the many wounded and injured veterans who hope for a chance to be part of the outdoors, either for the first time or as an assisted reintroduction to things they enjoyed prior to their injuries. For more information on ORHF and how you can help, see www.orhfund.org.
Honoring America’s wounded heroes with sportsmanship and camaraderie, and supporting PVA’s outdoor sports programs— including recreational shooting, hunting and fishing, handcycling/triathlon, and track/field events