Military youth hunt success due to generosity of volunteers
Story and Photos By: 1st Lt. Mark Slaughter, Kentucky Yellow Ribbon Program
Additional photos provided by Bruce Herrick Secretary of Derby City QDMA.
Brandenburg, Ky. — If you have ever been around a group of kids all weekend, chances are good you probably heard more than a few times, “I am bored.” Well, that’s what didn’t happen the weekend the Derby City Quality Deer Management Association’s hosted their first military youth hunt.
The four day event started October 7th and ran through the 10th at YMCA Camp Piomingo at the Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area. More than 30 young hunters and their mentors spent four-days enjoying the great outdoors, all thanks to some volunteers from the Derby City Branch QDMA and the Bourbon Trail Branch QDMA.
The children were provided everything they needed at no cost to the families, all thanks to sponsors like BAE Systems, Bass Pro Shops, Plano, Cabelas, Society of Military Engineers, WMMG Radio, Raytheon, League of Kentucky Sportsmen, Bluegrass Game Calls, Hunters for the Hungry, YMCA, Camp Piomingo, Walmart, KDFWR and others.
QDMA members of the Quality Deer Management Association raised almost $20,000 for the hunt. It was such a success plans are already in the works for another event next year, and the kids can’t wait.
The QDMA, by the way, is a non-profit wildlife conservation organization dedicated to ensuring a high-quality and sustainable future for deer hunting. Founded in 1988, the QDMA currently has more than 50,000 members in all 50 states and several foreign countries including many deer management professionals.
By partnering with state wildlife agencies, timber companies, hunting groups, and product manufacturers they work to achieve their goals of safe and ethical hunting. The overall focus of the group is a strict adherence to wildlife and trespass laws promoting involvement in education and management for the hunters and non-hunters toward a better understanding of wildlife management. QDMA members strive to maintain a stewardship and appreciation for all wildlife in the hopes of passing these values on to future hunters, and there is no doubt that the weekend’s event did just that.
Committee member of the Derby City Chapter of QDMA, and Chairman of the Military Youth Hunt, Joe Shreves worked hard to organize the event that brought kids in from almost every branch of service and from all over the Commonwealth.
Like all good hunting stories, the program came about during a discussion while sitting around a campfire.
“Naturally, we wanted the most deserving
kids and that is when we decided to give
consideration to children whose parents
were deployed overseas defending our
freedoms,” said Shreves. “The idea came up to go to Fort Knox and take some military kids.”
The idea grew and eventually 30 youth participated, 17 from Fort Campbell, six from Fort Knox, two from the Navy, and four are children of members in the Kentucky National Guard.
Before the youth hunt began the young people took part in the hunter education course and every one of them received a completion card, which is required to hold a Kentucky hunting license. Department of Fish and Wildlife Employees were on hand to help the kids complete the hunter education. This includes training, testing and range work with .22 rifles and 20 gauge shotguns.
On the range Matthew Robinson, son of retired Master Sgt. Shawn Robinson from the Murray State College ROTC program was impressed.
“This is awesome!” he declared as he finished the shotgun familiarization portion of the program.
Education was the first phase of the camp. Before the kids could hunt they had to learn about important topics like firearm safety, archery, wilderness survival techniques, conservation, and ethical hunting before heading into the field. After completing the classes the young hunters were provided a rifle donated by local hunters and sent to the range where they zeroed their sights.
On the zero range Kaytlin Nestor got some help from her father, Staff Sgt. David Nestor from the 101st Airborne Division Fort Campbell. The father-daughter team worked quickly with expertise, accurately setting up her rifle. Kaytlin has had a lifetime of shooting experience, but this weekend was special because it gave her some precious with her father, who has been deployed in support of the Global War on Terror.
“I am really looking forward to Saturday morning when the hunt begins,” said Kaytlin.
Hunting began before the sun came up Saturday morning, when the hunters and their mentors were taken to designated hunting positions. Throughout the weekend the number one goal was safety and every precaution was taken to insure the safety of the kids and volunteers. Hunting procedures were prepared and rehearsed well in advance.
Navy Hospital Corpsman Second Class Brian Minton was on duty from the Naval Operation Support Center Louisville. Minton provided medical support over the weekend and was on the scene ready for action in the event of any misstep.
Shreves had high praise for his medical support. “HM2 Minton was a valuable asset, and his presence brought great credit to himself and the US Navy.”
Minton, by the way, works as an EMT in the civilian world, and had just returned from a deployment in Afghanistan where he served as a corpsman for the United States Marine Corps.
“The weekend was great, and it was good to see so many kids and families enjoying themselves,” said Minton.
With their training complete early Saturday morning the kids were taken to designated hunting areas.
“We mainly hunted on two properties, Grand View Hunt Club, which is a private hunt club that I manage, and we hunted the Hardin County Landfill,” said Shreves.
Besides hunting skills the younger hunters learned something many of the seasoned mentors already knew. Hunting is a great sport but it is not just about connecting with nature, it is about making friends, and having a hunting buddy that life long memories are made with is priceless.
A lot of the kids had early success in the hunt but more than that many of them connected with one another on a personal level. Having a parent deployed is tough, and it is good to have a friend to help you through that time, someone who knows what it is like when a Mom or Dad is away.
That is exactly what Brandon Jeffcoat and Ben Hutchinson experienced. Over the weekend whenever you saw Brandon, Ben would not be far away. The two of them made a great pair. When Ben tagged his deer on Sunday Brandon was there to celebrate. Ben’s mom made the drive in with his two younger brothers to pick up the deer and take it to his dad who was at Camp Atterbury, Indiana preparing to deploy.
Ben’s proud Mother said “You have shown me the side of my son that I have never seen.”
Ben’s mentor Donnie Dattilo also had a great time saying, “I could shoot a 200 class deer this year, and not have as good a time as I did with Ben.”
Jessica Slater comes from a military family. She has two brothers in the military — one just left for basic training — and her father, 1st Lt. Greg Slater is deployed with the 1204th Aviation Support Battalion.
Both Jessica and her mentor, Jennifer Shannonhouse, had a great experience during the hunt. Jessica proudly declared that she was going to send venison jerky to her father in Iraq. The first step, of course, was getting a dear. Shannonhouse was a little worried at first when she saw how small Jessica was and how big the rifle was, but her fears soon faded.
“After her first 4 shots she had hit the target 3 times,” said Shannonhouse. “I was not concerned anymore. She was a lot of fun and was so incredibly excited about getting her deer. I am glad she has decided to process the meat for her dad. He will never forget that and neither will she.”
The youth hunters also donated their meat to Hunters for the Hungry making a difference in the local community. It is programs like these have brought hundreds of thousands of pounds of venison to homeless shelters, soup kitchens and food banks, that help feed those in need.
Shreves was pleased with the final result, saying “It was our goal to provide a quality hunting experience for the children of our deserving service members. From the looks of the children that participated, we were successful at making that happen, but we can do so much more. Imagine what a dozen chapters in Kentucky could accomplish. With the two chapters that participated in this hunt, Derby City and Bourbon Trail, we were able to host 30 children. There are hundreds that need our support!”
For more information on next year’s event please contact Derby City QDMA president, Pete Blandford, (502) 231-2625; Joe Shreves, (502) 377-5333, email email@example.com; or Bruce Herrick, (502) 239-8388, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.derbycityqdma.com to volunteer, donate or sign up.