I’ve just returned from three days with some of my favorite people. A group of currently serving wounded warriors and retired disabled veterans, most with a Ft Bragg connection, were hosted by the Caldwell Hunting Club and the Caldwell Community for it’s annual Wounded Warrior Deer Hunt. These events don’t just happen – they require a lot of planning, resources and money. They started hosting ten hunters seven years ago and now with expanded community support are able to accommodate more then twenty hunters and still provide a safe, quality hunting experience. This hunt has not only grown in size it’s reputation has spread far and wide throughout the military community – It is not only a great hunt it also provides just what many of our wounded warriors need which is an opportunity to feel normal and to connect with people who care about them.
Caldwell is a little farming community about ten miles northeast of Hillsborough NC. With the exception of the actual hunt, most activities take place at the Caldwell Community Center. The hunt begins shortly after noon on Thursday with requirements that all our military are familiar with, i.e. paperwork.
Introductions are made – some know each other and some are meeting for the first time.
All have a common bond of military service. Most share the frustrations of medical conditions which are beyond their control and many face an uncertain future.
After a short orientation and safety briefing hunters are paired up with a local landowner / guide who drives them to a prime deer hunting area where they are placed in a ground blind or elevated deer stand. New hunters are paired with experienced hunters for the first time sitting on stand.
“Let’s see if the deer know the script. My guide said they come out of those woods to feed in this field about a half hour before dark. Wow, that is a long way over there”
Hmmm, it looks like the old man can still shoot. Let’s see, would you call this a twelve point?
This was a first time hunter. This particular buck was the 2nd largest taken on the hunt and qualified for a complementary mount by a local taxidermist.
We really rolled up the deer the first evening. A team of NCWRC deer biologists was on hand to weigh and examine all the deer for age and signs of disease. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has not been found in North Carolina deer but is is a major concern.
Antlers on bucks of substantial size were measured for entry in the big buck contest.
Once the deer were released by the biologists they were grabbed by a team of local volunteers who could skin and quarter a deer in less them five minutes.
Yes, it looks kind of gross but this is reality folks. All that meat under saran wrap at the local grocery story got there in the same fashion.
Once the deer were all processed on Thursday evening the community center filled up with local residents who came to meet the hunters and to show their appreciation for the sacrifices being made by the military so that our county remains the greatest place on earth to live.
I’ve attended many of these Caldwell “meet and greet” events and they never cease to awe me. They always start with a Pledge of Allegiance followed by a local singer doing a very impressive rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. These folks are patriotic and are not afraid to show it.
Each of our hunters got up and introduced themselves and told a little bit of the recent journey they have been going through. All have heart rendering stories and for some it is difficult to see very far into the future. This hunt gives them a few days without worry about the next medical appointment or wondering what lies down the road.
The community listened in silence and awe. I saw a lot of shaking of heads and a few dabbing at corners of eyes.
Everyone was treated to a delicious meal prepared by local chefs and served by the local Future Farmers of America (FFA) – The main course was topped off by two tables of home made deserts prepared by community wives. These ladies sure know how to pamper my sweet tooth.
Back to the Microtel Inn for a short nights sleep and back to a full breakfast at 5:00 the following morning. Everyone paired up with a landowner / guide and was heading to their stand by 6:00 am.
Thirteen more deer were brought in Friday morning which put our cumulative total to thirty. This recently medically retired soldier shot a very nice ten point which edged out two eight pointers in the official scoring system used for determining big buck.
Friday afternoon was unseasonably warm and the deer did not move like we hoped. I sat in a nicely situated stand overlooking a draw coming out of a bedding area not far from a green field. I saw one deer running through the woods at about 75 yards but did not even attempt a shot. Others reported seeing nothing. On the bright side, eight of our hunters added another deer to the tally. We still have a few hunters who have not shot anything. With the exception of one, all have taken shots but have not connected. We have been rotating folks to new stands and will try real hard tomorrow to place them in “hot stands”.
It worked out splendidly for this fellow. His first deer and it is doubles. He is spoiled and should not expect that every time.
Not a big one but we will take it on the last day of the hunt. The fact is, the farmers have a love / hate relationship with the deer and view them as competition when it comes to trying to grow a crop for market.
The skinning crew made short work of seven more deer on Saturday morning. We ended up with forty five in the check-in book. (22 bucks, 20 does, 3 button bucks)
Once all the deer were processed it is time to wrap things up. We did not come empty handed – several hunters brought unit coins, coffee mugs and military related gear to share with our hosts. One vet brought prayer rugs and flags he procured during recent deployments. He also donated a small piece of the parachute he used when he jumped into Iraq during our initial assault in 2003.
Our hosts reciprocated with gifts for each participant – Everyone walked away with something but the most important gift was the great stories and memories.
Group photo of all the hunters along with many of the landowners, guides, skinners, cooks, and all the others who come together each year to make this wonderful event happen. The Caldwell Community can take great pride in knowing they are making a positive contribution in the lives of many of our wounded and disabled servicemen and women.
If you would like to see more photos and comments from individuals who participated go to https://www.facebook.com/caldwellhuntingclub – This page will soon be updated with photographs by our official photographer Stephanie Brown the owner of Stephanie's Creative Photography https://www.facebook.com/stephscreativephoto
- Avid Angler
- Join date : 2010-10-26
Location : Fayetteville NC