I just wanted to tell you what a wonderful time I had on the AFL Fall ’09 Deer Hunt.
Please bare with me… I wanted to try and sound professional in writing this to you. But, it is more important that I get me FEELINGS across more.
I was searching the internet for DREAM HUNTING trips that I would like to go on before I died. Suffering from PTSD, Major Depression, and Disc Degeneration Disease (5 surgeries so far) this gives me something to look forward to or strive to do one day. Not sure what I typed but America’s Freedom Lodge popped up on my search engine and I clicked on it. I started reading all of the information and saw that you posted you had a few spots available for your Fall Deer Hunt. I contacted Rob and he explained that AFL did guided hunts for Disabled Veterans and everything was FREE to the Veteran. I really couldn’t believe that an organization was paying for Disabled Veterans to hunt deer in Ohio for FREE! I figured it would take me about 7 hours to drive to AFL and decided to go.
Once I got there I was greeted by Kevin and his family. From the moment I exited my car I was treated like I was really someone special. They told me to get into the Gator to ride up to the base camp. I tried to sit in the back of the Gator to allow his wife to sit up front. She sat in the back and MADE me sit up front. I was raised to always give up my seat to others, but she said this is MY WEEK to enjoy myself. I was just getting here and these strangers were already treating me like family. They told me, “If there is ANYTHING you need, please let us know”.
I was introduced to Marc and Rob and brought up to speed on what was in store for me this week. Marc took me to his home to order my hunting license online. I met his wonderful family. His family was extremely friendly and offered the same advice, “If there is ANYTHING you need, please let us know”. We then picked up our luggage and were taken to the lodge for the night.
The accommodations were excellent! I went assuming that I would be staying in a tent or something. We stayed in a very nice lodge that was donated for our use, near the base camp. We were picked up and dropped off there any time we wanted.
We were fed 3 meals a day that were delicious. I ate things that my wife would never believe I ate. The meals were donated by several families and businesses. The women that prepared them and served them were just AWESOME. They were always smiling and asking if we needed anything.
The hunting was unbelievable… Many people got their buck and doe in the first few days. I hunted with Rob the first morning. I was SURE I would get a deer. He looked and talked just like one of those professionals on TV. He told me all about AFL on the way to our blind. I was really amazed at all AFL did for Disabled Veterans. We had some does come in around 30 yards. I KNEW I wouldn’t have a problem shooting them. I shake a little from my Depression medications, but they have a nice blind set up that I could lay my crossbow on to steady it. I take my first shot and ZING the bolt goes under the doe by a foot… I just shake my head in embarrassment. Rob re-cocks my bow and readies it for me. The does come right back in for another shot. Again, 30 yards out, I shoot… and ZING it goes over the doe. By now I am just laughing and so is Rob. We are laughing so hard, I gave up for that morning. I KNOW I sighted my bow in a few days before I left home. The crossbow head is loose and falling apart. I think SHEWWW, I got an excuse!!! The crossbow ended up being bad and they gave me a good one to use for the rest of the week. I sent that sucker back to Horton when I got home.
I hunted throughout the rest of the week with Shane (He is a riot!!!), Danny (Very nice guy and a good turkey caller), Kevin (I could say alot about this guy. He is an awesome person. I enjoyed talking to him every day. I was able to open up to him during the week. I’ll never forget him), Derek (he is a very nice guy with alot of hunting knowledge). Oh, I can’t forget to mention Jeff and Trent… HAHA. Thank you Jeff for the extra deer meat. Thanks to both of you for all the laughs ….. at Tom’s expense………..
I got my doe when I was with Derek. He told me in advance what the deer would do. It was so funny to see it actually play out like he said. I shot a small buck with what we thought was a good shot. He moved around a bit, laid down, and moved again. I then shot a doe that didn’t go very far off into the woods. Derek was able to video the entire hunt. We were able to find the doe, but not the small buck.
The week ended with a party and pig roast.
I really can’t express how much of a good time I had. Not once, did I think about suicide this week. My back still bothered me, but, the entire staff of volunteers did everything in their power to make me comfortable. I still can’t get over how you all made me feel. I didn’t have a big dramatic story of how I became disabled in the USAF like many of the guys, but I was treated the exact same. When I got home, my family could definitely tell that I had an enjoyable time.
I believe in all that you are all doing. I believe that God has his hands in your lives and will bless you all for all that you are doing. You have no idea how you touched my life. You are all in my prayers.
Ret USAF Sgt