Wounded Warrior Hunt a Great Success
Contact: Kim Houf, 573-323-4941
VAN BUREN MO:On November 9th and 10th, Ozark National Scenic Riverways hosted its first Wounded Warrior Mobility Impaired Hunt for a special group of the nation's population. Five hunters who submitted applications from around the state were selected to participate in the managed deer hunt and had the opportunity to harvest two antlerless deer in the Big Spring area.Because hunting is normally restricted in this area of the park, a managed hunt actually benefitsthe Big Spring deer population and improves the overall health of the herd.
On the Friday evening before the hunt, all five hunters gathered at park headquarters in Van Buren for an orientation meeting. The event began with a presentation by the Van Buren Quilts of Valor Chapter whose mission is to: cover all our warriors and combat veterans who have been touched by war or wounded with our healing and comforting Quilts of Valor. Each hunter and five local veterans received handmade quilts and many hugs from the women of the local chapter. Mary Ann Pfeifer, the local Chapter Coordinator, said "We just love these guys and all they have done for us." It was obvious the sentiment was returned tenfold. To date the local chapter, which operates on donations, has made and presented over 150 quilts worldwide. At the conclusion of the meeting, hunters and the volunteer hunt assistants had an opportunity to meet, discuss the following morning's strategy and share their personal stories.
Saturday morning brought cool temperature and calm winds; ideal conditions for a successful hunt, made evident as all five hunters filled their quota the first day. Park staff and community volunteers/sponsors eagerly assisted in retrieving and field dressing the deer and then packing them on ice.The camaraderie continued with hunting stories and jokes while hunters and assistants enjoyed a hearty chili and jambalaya luncheon.
Wounded Warrior Greg Young will remember the hunt as "a truly uplifting and exciting experience. Everything exceeded our expectations; from the pre-hunt quilt presentation to the post-hunt deer processing assistance." The hunt was designed to provide an opportunity for service members to have an experience that they normally would not be able to have. For many, the hunt meant much more than harvesting a deer; it was "a complex healing experience," said former Army Combat Engineer Joe Bogart.
"I enjoyed my time in the woods and the whole experience. I feel I made some new friends, had fun with old buddies, and learned a bit more about myself. As I am still realizing and understanding what my limitations are as a Wounded Warrior, I continue to push those limits as much as I can. Getting to joke with the rangers and guides felt just like home," recalls Bogart.
The great success of this hunt went far beyond the direct assistance of park staff. Many local sponsors contributed in very significant ways.Event coordinator Kim Houf, the park's Terrestrial Ecologist, was amazed at the outpouring of support she received for this hunt. From food donations to folks just asking to be a part of it in some way, there was an overwhelming sense of respect and gratitude for the Wounded Warriors. Donations to the event did not start and end with money. It was obvious to everyone involved that this hunt was about giving back - giving to those who have sacrificed so much on the field of battle. "Whether someone served as an assistant to a hunter, made a quilt or helped in field dressing a deer, participating in this hunt first-hand was something none of us will forget," says Houf.
The National Park Service would like to personally thank the following volunteers and sponsors who contributed in making the hunt successful and memorable for all involved. Volunteers included: Glenn Sanders, Derek Saffle, Adam Helvey, Betty Helvey, Jodi Towery, Ryan Houf and Charles Gordon. Sponsors included: Cabela's, Floatstream, Grassham Lumber, Main Street Market, Ozark Meats, Piedmont Meat Processing, Quilts of Valor, Smalley's Convenience, and Sterling Bank.
Former Army soldier Dan Barnes best sums it up by saying, "I had a blast at the hunt! I enjoyed everything about it. The town, the people, the rangers, the volunteers were awesome and very helpful and friendly. I made lifetime friends from this hunt."
As always, we look forward to hearing from the public and encourage all to visit the park's website at www.nps.gov/ozar or our Facebook page for further updates.
Ozark National Scenic Riverways preserves the free-flowing Current and Jacks Fork Rivers, the surrounding resources, and the unique cultural heritage of the Ozark people.