CLINTON — In honor of Veteran’s Day and veterans everywhere, Pheasants Forever and the Beckridge Hunting Preserve have teamed up to offer a special experience to all those who have served this country.
On Saturday, 94 veterans, some local and some not-so-local, will come together in unity at the Hunting for Vets event, for a day-long pheasant hunting adventure at Beckridge in Sabula.
“Once you leave the military it’s almost like a switch goes off and it’s not there anymore,” event coordinator Dave Crockett said. “The best thing about the hunt is, these guys get to become one again.”
This is the second year the Pheasants Forever group has organized the free hunting event, and they never expected it to grow so much in just one year.
Mark Roberts, the environmental education coordinator for the Clinton County Conservation board, and a member of Pheasants Forever, has worked with Crockett from the beginning to organize the hunt, which originally was only supposed to include a handful of local veterans.
“The first thought about it was just to take about a dozen guys,” Roberts said. “Last year we had 84; this year we’re expecting 94. It’s much bigger than we could ever imagine it would ever be.”
The 94 who will attend Saturday will be veterans from all branches of the military from many wars, including Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq .
“There is no criteria for the hunt. If you served our country, thank you, come on out,” Roberts said. “We have recent Iraq vets all the way back to Korean War vets. And it’s neat to hear people from different generations basically talking about the same thing.”
United States Army veteran Ed Staszewski will take part in Saturday’s hunt and said he feels grateful for the work Crockett, Roberts and all the volunteers have put into creating the event.
“It means that people appreciate what you’ve done as a veteran,” Staszewski said. “In my era when people came back from Vietnam, they were treated like crap. Now, these Iraq and Afghan (vets) are treated like gold.”
Because of that continued support for military veterans, Crockett and Roberts were actually forced to turn away volunteers who wanted to help with the event.
“Who has to do that?” Roberts asked. “When you have a really good idea and it’s got really the right feeling behind it, it’s not hard to convince someone to contribute to it.”
Without that community support, Crockett knows the event could not come together and he credits all of their success to the hard-working volunteers that make it all happen.
“All I have done was open my big mouth a couple years ago,” laughed Crockett. “The Pheasants Forever guys, the volunteers and all of the sponsors; they are the reason that any of this has happened.”
The hunt will begin with breakfast sponsored by the Izaak Walton League in Sabula and then the group will be split in two. Half of the veterans will hunt from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and the other half will hunt from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., after the group reconvenes for a lunch provided by Hillside Stables.
Although the hunt has been filled for this year, Roberts expects it to be an annual event and encourages any veteran who is interested to sign up.
“Maybe a vet has never been pheasant hunting, but why should that stop them?” Roberts said. “It shouldn’t. We’ll do whatever we have to, to take care of them.”