Caldwell Community Wounded Warrior Turkey Hunt 2013
4/26/2013 11:42 AM
Written by Al Kittredge:
With all the troubles being portrayed in our current twenty-four hour news cycle we need to pause once in awhile to look for something good going on around us. The second weekend of the 2013 turkey season the farming community of Caldwell NC gave a small group of Wounded Warriors the opportunity to do just that. The Caldwell Hunting Club have organized the entire community around a Wounded Warrior spring turkey hunt and fall deer hunt for the past six years. I participated as mentor to one of the Wounded Warriors during the second annual deer hunt and was deeply honored when they asked if I would volunteer to act as their liaison with the military in procuring deserving participants for future hunts.
As a retired Vietnam Vet I remember how we were treated when we came home and I've vowed to do my part to make sure that never happens again. My answer was a resounding"YES". These events don't just magically happen, they take a lot of planning, coordination and hard work on the part of many people. This past weekend was payback in spades. During the past four years I've always driven home with the feeling of having done something good, but in my opinion the 2013 Annual Caldwell Community Wounded Warrior Turkey Hunt was the best ever.
The event kicks off with all participants assembling at the Caldwell Community Center for a little administrative paperwork, introductions and orientation. Prior to assembly,those arriving early were able to check into lodging provided by the Caldwell Hunting Club at a nearby hotel - those arriving with no time to spare checked in after the evening hunt. We made room for eighteen participants this year.Three were acting either as mentors or caregivers which still meant we needed a minimum of fifteen guides / callers from the local community and fifteen places to hunt. When you think about that you soon realize this requires a lot of prior planning and coordination. The NCWRC Law Enforcement Division provides a local game warden to familiarize everyone with the rules concerning turkey hunting and proper gun safety procedures. Once the orientation and safety briefing was out of the way, we all headed to our hunting areas with high anticipation and a wary eye on the weather which called for thunderstorms with damaging winds.
First order of the day for most of us once we arrived at a location where turkeys had been observed feeding and strutting was to place a couple of decoys out to draw the real turkeys attention. With that accomplished it is time to get the hunter settled into a comfortable position overlooking where the turkey is anticipated to appear. Turkeys have excellent eyesight and hearing so we were admonished to "don't move, don't blink, don't make a sound" - This lesson was driven home to me and several others the hard way. The local guides then settled in behind the hunter and work their magic with a turkey call.
Most of us got run off by a strong band of squalls and thunderstorms that poured one minute and then bright sunshine the next. Most were able to take cover in a nearby vehicle or house and returned to continue the hunt once things settled down. That evening three proud hunters brought heavy gobblers to the back door of the Caldwell Community Center. These Wounded Warriors, many with life altering injuries and uncertain futures, forgot all about that for a few moments and that is what these hunts are all about.
While the hunters were dodging the rain, local volunteers were busy cooking and preparing a meal and organizing for a community wide "meet and greet our heroes" that takes place twice a year at the conclusion of the first evening hunt. These folks are not afraid to show their love of God and this great country. All major events start with a pledge of allegiance to the flag followed by an outstanding rendition of our national anthem by a local singer. Every meal is blessed by a local pastor or layman. The hunters and their guides are then asked to stand, introduce themselves and say a few words. There were also a few tall tales about missed opportunities during the recent afternoon hunt.
Meal time! Fish cooked several ways, burgers, beans, slaw, fries, etc. "Don't forget to save room for dessert" - there is always a back table filled with wonderful desserts prepared by the ladies of the community. Following the meal it is about a 15-minute ride to a Hillsborough hotel where we make arrangements for an early wake-up call because we must be back at the Caldwell Community Center to do it all over again at 5:00 o'clock next morning.
The group was a little quieter at breakfast. Once again I want to point out the hard work and allocation of monies and resources to make these things happen. Those eggs,grits, bacon, sausage, biscuits, coffee and juice didn't just magically appear. With breakfast out of the way we once again linked up with a guide / caller and departed for a hunting area. Some went with the same guide / caller and some were given new guides and new hunting areas. It did not matter. We all felt very comfortable in the hands of local experts.
Despite what they say, lightning and turkey hunters can strike twice in rapid succession. One Wounded Warrior who had never hunted anything before in his life shot a turkey the evening before and another the following morning - he is spoiled now. One other hunter who scored the afternoon before also shot his second gobbler which means he is, as hunters are inclined to brag,"tagged out" for the season. Another disabled vet and personal friend who assists me as a fly fishing volunteer at the NCWRC John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center shot a huge gobbler in self defense at ten yards as it almost ran over him on the way to attack the decoy.
We put a total of seven turkeys on the ground. They are proudly displayed in the accompanying photo with their local guides / callers in the rear. Not bad for fifteen hunters on a single afternoon and morning hunt. Everyone saw turkeys. We had one missed shot and one shot which put the bird down but he got up and ran faster than the hunter who was trying to catch him for a finishing shot.
We often wrap things up with an exchange of gifts. This time we brought the best gift of all which was a gift from the heart. Each of the hunters got up and said a few words about what the hunt and the generous outpouring of support from the Caldwell Community meant to them. It was humbling and inspiring at the same time. Many of these folks have serious injuries or illnesses and all face an uncertain future. I saw a lot of moist eyes, my own included, as they told us what the hunt and the opportunity to feel normal, even if for only a little while meant to them. Like I said in my opening paragraph, we got paid in full for all of our planning and hard work. Folks, it doesn't get much better than this.
Organizations and individuals who would like more information on how to support future hunts can contact Earl Brown email@example.com . There is a continual need for these sort of "respite or change of pace" events for our heroes therefore other hunt club and outdoor oriented organizations are encouraged to develop their own programs.
Al Kittredge is a retired army officer who resides in Fayetteville, NC. Most of his retired life now centers around outdoor endeavors. As an avid fly fisherman who loves sharing that passion with others, he is the lead volunteer at the NCWRC John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center. Kittredge wasrecently recognized by the NC Wildlife Federation as the Wildlife Volunteer of the Year as part of the Governor's Conservation Achievement Awards program .Kittredge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
1 comment(s) so far...
By Steph on
4/29/2013 3:03 PM
Re: Caldwell Community Wounded Warrior Turkey Hunt 2013
I am the photographer for this event and just wanted to say what a BLESSING it is to me and my family to host this every year! THANK YOU to all of our military! You are our heroes!!