The caring side of all of us comes out with a big woo-hoo, and maybe even a teary eye or two, when we hear of folks going those extra miles to do nice things for those unable to do it themselves. Here are two of those accounts coming from the great outdoors:|
The Dixon, Ill., chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation recently held its fourth annual Dream Turkey Hunt for youngsters with disabilities or bearing severe illness. This year was a tremendous success in many ways.
"We had nine kids -- which is more than ever before -- and five of those youngsters were able to harvest wild turkeys," event organizer Terry Day, said with much satisfaction. "We were blessed with great weather and cooperative birds."
The Dixon NWTF folks work through the United Special Sportsmen's Alliance, who partner youngsters with organizations holding such events. The Dixon based club brings youngsters and parents or guardians to the area, arranges lodging at the Lutheran Outdoor Ministry Center, provides meals, holds other fun activities over the long weekend, secures volunteer hunting guides and places to hunt -- all at no cost to the participants.
"This year we had a giant Easter egg hunt -- the kids and their families went looking for 1200 eggs and all had a ball," Day said. "Over the four years, we've hosted 30 kids and they have tagged 16 birds, which is a pretty good average."
Now we cross the Mississippi River for a Purple Heart Hunt.
"A few years ago, I was watching a TV hunting show filmed in Texas -- it was for disabled veterans," said Mark Roberts, education coordinator for the Clinton County Conservation Board. "I got to thinking that we could do something like that here and make it more realistic, because the Texas hunt was inside a high-fence property."
It took a couple of years for Roberts to obtain all the approvals needed, including being allowed to hunt in a county park, and secure funding for the hunt equipment and a special blind.
Clinton's Gary McDermott was paired with experienced hunter Joe Thyne, also of Clinton, who volunteered to take McDermott on the hunt.
Back in the 1960s, McDermott was drafted and a few months later found himself in the jungles of Vietnam as a helicopter crew chief. That duty led to a spinal cord injury that left the veteran paralyzed from the chest down and limited use of his arms. Not letting that stop him, McDermott completed his education and has stood out as an advocate for disabled veterans including being named the Disabled Iowan of the Year and receiving numerous other awards. Hunting is a challenge, but he thought, "let's give that gobbler a try!''
Recently, the two of them set out on early in the morning.
Thyne clucked and yelped softly from the blind and a gobbler answered. The gobbles got louder as the tom got closer, but then silence came. The hunters waited and watched. Then something rubbed up against the side of the blind. Guess who showed up without making another sound? A large gobbler was literally within reach of the hunters and looking at the decoys.
Finally, the big tom walked far enough away from McDermott to allow him to steady his aim -- his heart was pounding. Bracing his shotgun on the specially designed wheelchair, he fired. The tom fell and two new friends high fived with elation. The trophy tom weighed 28 pounds, had an 11 inch beard and sported 1 1/8 inch spurs -- a tremendous bird by any standards.
For complete information of Clinton County Conservation Board Purple Heart Hunting (for veterans who have earned combat citations, been a POW or are a disabled veteran) go to www.mycountyparks.com.
In addition to a giant woo-hoo, I tip my camo cap and bow to all involved in both of these outstanding events! Well done, good and faithful servants.
Bob Groene is outdoors writer for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rock island, IL Details
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