In July of this year (2013), I was invited, by Waterfowl USA, to attend a sponsored Goose Hunt, as a disabled Veteran, through Wounded Warrior Project. As the Wounded Warrior sponsored hunter, I was also invited to bring a friend to share the three-day hunt. Throughout the remainder of July, August and September, as I prepared for this trip to Wisconsin’s prime waterfowl reserve, the Horicon, I would receive periodic communication, ensuring that I would have each thing that I would need, or want, to make my hunt a success. I had submitted, on request, all of my clothing sizes, as you and John Jelinek would make the appropriate camouflage clothing available to me. It was my impression that other hunters would have spare articles of clothing that they would be willing to loan. That was a bit of a relief, as I had no camouflage hunting clothes.
My guest, Dan, and I began to anxiously anticipate the day we would leave, for Waupun. A week before we were set to leave, a letter arrived, containing a gas card, for my trip. Again, a huge relief, as I was struggling to decide how to pay for meals and fuel. The Friday of our trip finally arrived, and Dan and I set out across Wisconsin, for our five-hour drive. We got to the hotel in plenty of time to register, meet some of the WUSA hunters who were readying for Saturday, and settle into the room WUSA had provided. We had been advised that, although there were meals covered for Saturday and Sunday, we would need to arrange for our own meal, on Friday. As Dan and I were soon to discover, there didn’t seem to be anything that you and WUSA, wouldn’t be generously providing… We were invited out to a stunning dinner with a number of the leaders and guides. After dinner, there was a presentation scheduled, at the hotel, so we made our way back. It was my recollection that I had been instructed to pack, among other hunting-essentials, a shotgun, suited for bringing down Canada goose. Accordingly, I had. WUSA, at this gathering presented me with a gorgeous, camouflaged, wickedly-lethal .12 gauge, new-for-2013 Beretta Outlander A300, with 2 boxes of shells! The shock of this generosity was to continue for the next half-hour as I unpacked a box containing an un-paralleled flow of treasure> I was to find the very best of M2D camouflaged trousers, button-down shirt, jacket, and hooded sweatshirt; boots, and wool socks, and a unique, waterfowl call lanyard, hand-made, with both a goose call and duck call, attached.
No one had ever before, or since, so selflessly recognized my Army service, in so open and magnanimous a manner; I retreated to my room, humbled, self-conscious, and a little bit in shock.
Early, Saturday morning, we loaded up, with John Jelinek as our guide, and journeyed to a quiet, dark field of partially harvested corn. After we had placed about a hundred Goose decoys, we sat, concealed among the corn stalks, to wait for likely suspects, as the sky lightened. As much as I enjoyed my newly-discovered passion, for Goose hunting, I think I was even more entertained by the antics of John; He called the geese in with an expert’s passion, even engaged in a mad foot-pursuit of some wounded geese, across the high furrowed field.
Thanks to the extreme planning, expertise and exertions of our guides, Dan and I were both able to bring down our limits of Canada Goose, each morning of our hunt. The camaraderie among the WUSA hunters, who SO graciously accepted us among their number, proceeded, unabated through lunches, banquet dinners, lounging-time at the hotel and after the hunt regaling. Sunday evening, after my unsuccessful hunt for a Bigfoot Canada Goose decoy, via the raffle, one of your members purchased one, for me.
I cannot sufficiently express all that your hunt did for me. As a guy who, prior to my Iraq injuries, was an avid outdoorsman, you brought me back to the woods and fields that I had abandoned, in my pain; reminding me that the rewards of just getting out and hunting, far, far, far outweigh the cost of the resulting debilitating pain. I have reclaimed the joy of the hunt, learned to add pheasant and grouse to my bag, and daily pursue the elusive turkey. The Beretta is my ready companion, as my 12 year-old son walks beside me. We have christened it ‘Smoke’, after Bob’s Silver Lab. I belong back, in the woods, in the company of hunters. You, at Waterfowl USA, through your extreme, generous compassion and grace for a broken but not beaten Veteran, reminded me of this truth. You are a bunch of truly fine Americans.
P.S. I indicated in my letter above, that I have gotten back to the woods, and hunting… my tally, (in addition to the six Canada Goose I took from the skies above the Horicon) so far this season has been a pheasant, a grouse, and two turkeys. (with the Beretta, Smoke.)
I have taken up my bow, again, and brought down four Whitetail deer. I also took a buck, during gun season, and there are still three weeks left in Wisconsin’s bow season, for the herd-control unit, I hunt, and I have four un-filled doe-tags left.
I will never be able to fully thank you and Waterfowl USA, and it’s members, for the kindness you so richly showered me with. God Bless You, mightily!
Dear Waterfowl USA,
Thank you for choosing me to go hunting. I had an amazing time. I met some really cool people that taught me a lot about goose hunting. They also taught me the rules for hunting and safety procedures with the gun I was using. All the equipment I was given was awesome! Now I will be ready for the next time I go hunting. It was nice after hunting all day to go back to the hotel and hangout with all the other hunters. I liked all the stories we shared and I met some really great people. I would like to thank everybody who made this trip possible.
Kyle also pictured above in group photo