Sunday, January 19, 2014

2014 Warrior Tribute duck hunt in Santee Delta

Jeremy and Brian with a bunch of released mallards and woodies
Manager J.P. with Alex Quattlebaum after the hunt
The third annual Warrior Tribute duck hunt in the Santee Delta continues the celebration of U.S. military servicemen who wish to enjoy the outdoors as relief from stress and as a positive way forward in life. The Georgetown Chapter of Ducks Unlimited puts on the hunt and partners with the Patriot Hunts organization and Ken Barnard from Fort Bragg in North Carolina. DU's Brett Baker, James Meadows, Dan Ray and others respond by hosting the hunters on private properties (mostly under easement with DU) to feed, house and hunt the veterans. On Friday January 17 an oyster roast was held at Estherville Plantation for the dozen servicemen that made the three-hour trip South to the Santee Delta. A small crowd of DU volunteers including hunt support staff and plantation managers enjoyed outdoor fellowship in clear and cold conditions. Each visiting hunter was given a camo blind bag with essentials like a duck stamp and steel shot shells, plus the University of South Carolina donated a shirt, hat and more from their Wounded Warrior Program merchandise. Thanks to the Lumpkin family for once again hosting this important oyster roast that serves to break the ice with the honored guests, and where hunters are assigned to properties for lodging and hunting. Two such servicemen were dispatched to Arundel Plantation on the Pee Dee River and we drove 30-minutes with hunt host Alex Quattlebaum to the 1300-acre property that is under easement with Ducks Unlimited. Sitting around the fireplace that night we were able to visit with both of these warriors. Since they are 'Special Operators' there are strict rules about what I can share here, but Brian and Jeremy are both SFC's who are instructors at the special warfare center at Fort Bragg. With tours completed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Phillipines their war stories are real and tangible. The weather forecast for the morning hunt was a daunting '30/30' with 30-degree temps and a 30 m.p.h. wind, and were grateful that we would at least sleep warm that night. Manager J.P. met us at 6 a.m. and rode us to our duck blinds via golf cart putting Brian in the alpha blind since he was an experienced hunter and Jeremy in the next best blind. It was Quattlebaum that fired the first shot of the hunt at a sneaky wood duck, but soon Brian was knocking down every duck in sight as the bonanza of released mallards at Arundel began to flank his position. Jeremy wasn't connecting on his shots, but a shrewd move to change his location ended up paying dividends as he soon caught up in the harvest tally - including the only drake woodie of the hunt! Jeremy had stated the night before that he had never shot a wood duck and that he would mount a drake wood duck if he were fortunate to harvest one. In a nutshell, that's what this hunt is all about - saying thanks by giving these soldiers the options to do something they might not otherwise get to do. Being able to share my viewpoint with readers is heartening and it really is amazing what these Special Forces guys are made of and the contribution they make towards the nation's freedom is often below the radar. Cheers to them!
Visiting Warriors from Fort Bragg at the oyster roast

To view past blog entries about the Warrior Tribute hunt in the Santee Delta click 2012 or 2011.

Josh Waters and Alex Miller bookend this group of VIP's

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