It has been an eventful year so far for the Mason County Wounded Veteran Hunting Program. The most important action we have taken is to establish ourselves as a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization with tax exempt status. This allows any of you who choose to make donations to our program to claim this as a tax deductable gift just as you would to any other charitable cause. We are loosely aligned with the same folks from Fort Hood and San Antonio, plus a good friend of Stanley’s and mine from Three Rivers who hosts several duck and deer hunts plus a few alligator hunts for the soldiers. This is a great opportunity to further enhance a good thing, plus it will ensure there will be no possible conflicts with Wounded Warrior International. Finally, you can rest assured that your donations will stay, as always, in Mason County.
Speaking of donations, I would like to acknowledge a few of them. One family who wishes to remain anonymous has given a Ruger Mark III Competition Pistol for us to use as we see fit. Clear Title of Mason has made a very generous donation, as has Jeff and Rachel Sierpien. Clinton Durst is a loyal donor every year, as is Tommy Starks, and Mrs. Jamie Hemphill, and we receive several donations every year due to memorials, and all are appreciated. I know I forget someone each time I do this, but if I don’t get you next time, you are still very much appreciated.
It has already been a very busy and rewarding hunting year for the Patriot Warrior Foundation. In September, the John Haines family joined up with Ronnie Zesch, Gary and Ronnie Johnson, and several of their friends to host over twenty wounded veterans for a three day dove hunt. They hosted about sixty people to a fabulous barbeque prepared by David Wylie, Charlie and Chas Schmidt, Greg Smith, and James Esquell on Friday evening. On Saturday, David had cook to order breakfast before the hunt began, and surprisingly a couple of hundred dove were harvested. Friendly competition on the clay pigeon range was enjoyed throughout the hunt, food and beverage was always available, lies were in abundance, and there was no shortage of good times. After all was said and done, Gary and the two Ronnies and friends were responsible for a new PWF wing at the Wildlife Ranch, plus a sizeable donation was made to the PWF operation’s fund for 2013.
As the deer season approached, we were very honored to have the opportunity to host two veteran hunts on the Carol Kothmann and Dr. Hitt Ranches in Menard County. On these hunts we first hosted the Warrior Transition Brigade from Fort Hood, and then the Center for the Intrepid and the men and women from Brooke Army Hospital in San Antonio. These hunts were exceptionally successful as all the deer taken go to the food banks of the soldiers either in the hospitals or to the families of the deployed soldiers at Ft. Hood. These hunts totaled nineteen deer taken, so this hunt was a special hunt to the men and women involved. Thanks to Carol and to Dr. Hitt.
There have been four hunts sponsored by the San Antonio, Three Rivers group, but two of them are worth mentioning to you. They all involve men and women out of Brooke, the CFI, and wounded vets in the VA system in the San Antonio/Houston area. One group of five men went to Pampa, Texas for a mule deer/Exotic hunt. They spent in the area of $2000 in fuel and lodging just getting to the host ranch. Each veteran harvested the allotted animals, but while in Pampa, a fund raiser was held, a big barbeque, and by the time the guys got home, they put almost $5000 in the PWF account in San Antonio. So maybe there is another town in Texas with a heart nearly as big as Mason.
The other hunt out of San Antonio was to the Jim Wade Ranch in Llano. He allowed Terrell Seeger, who most of you know, to bring a hunter up to harvest a trophy elk. Jim’s place is high fenced, of course. Terrell has been guiding, skinning, transporting, and whatever else has been needed since our first hunt ten years ago. Anyway, his hunter was on the second trailer in the Midland tragedy several weeks ago. He was beat up pretty badly and his wife had a broken pelvis out of the deal. It just goes to show the spirit of these guys to get out in the field again and again. By the way, he took a trophy 6x6 Bull, and there was another hunt last weekend on the same ranch.
The first weekend in December, my hunters hosted two wounded vets. One was a single amputee with traumatic brain injury. The other had TBI and a back injury plus short term memory loss. He has a service dog with him at all times that can sense when these periods of memory loss will occur. Both of these men have been here several times and have become close friends of my family and my hunters. The Marine Infantryman who lost his leg was blown up by a 3000 pound IED in a dump truck under a bridge his squad was guarding. All his squad was either killed or wounded. He has a dramatic story to relate. He is a chef in San Antonio, and prepared a wonderful meal for us on Saturday. I put him on a 140 class buck, but he couldn’t get a clean shot, now he won’t shoot anything less than that. The army medic also was wounded by an IED, doing his job recovering another wounded soldier. He harvested a good 8 point buck that scored 138. My hunters are having it mounted for him.
Our big hunt will be the 11th and 12th of January, 2013. We’ll try to get another reminder in the paper and on the radio before then. We’ll cook up another good batch of sirloin, sausage, and all the fixings. I trust all the good ladies of Mason will provide all the side dishes and desserts, as you always do. All we really ask is for you to show up as you always do to show support for these men and women who have given so much for us.
I believe we will have about thirty hunters this year, which will mean some fifty or so people from San Antonio and Fort Hood. Several will be amputees and several will be in wheel chairs. Many will be returnees from before, and those will have the warmest regards for Mason and the people of Mason. We all, I know, want to keep it that way.
Since I started this, Warren and Susan Grote of Country Collectibles have donated the most beautiful, and to me, the most humbling, of gifts to our organization. It is a 16.3 carat tear drop Topaz pendant. I’m at almost a loss to know what to do with it. I guess we will try a silent auction at the banks to see if we can raise anything close to appraisal value, but if anyone wants to see it or has any ideas, please let me know.