Two local organizations come together to host Veterans hunting event

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News
Veterans from around the state gathered to participate in a hunt designed for them at the Heartland Preserve Saturday morning.

Saturday morning, Veterans from not only the local area, but around the state and parts of South Dakota gathered at the Heartland Hunting Preserve in rural Granite Falls for a Veterans hunting event hosted by the Chippewa County Pheasants Forever and Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Two Rivers Chapter. Despite the chilly conditions, tempered by a light rain that fell off and on, the two groups drew a crowd of more than 50 registered hunters, and around a dozen hunting guides to the part in the annual event that is now in its tenth year. “The first year we had five to six guys, and now it’s grown to this,” says Jeremy Pauling of Chippewa County Pheasants Forever. “We sponsor it every year. We get together as two groups and want to give back, and the guides love to come out and look forward to it every year.”

The group gathered in the morning for registration, also enjoying time to have coffee together and socialize before the hunt. “This is what it’s all about you get people to understand each other, share stories and just love being out in the outdoors,” says Dave Swenson, one of the attendees of the event that has taken part in it each year. “ I come out here to enjoy seeing veterans and their guests having fabulous time out in the field. Our son who is a 13 and a half year veteran is here. That makes it extra fun when you can bring another veteran.” 

The Heartland Preserve supplied the birds to be used for the hunt, and the guides took the Veterans and their guests into the field after the morning registration and social time. “We take five groups out into the field, and one group out to the tower. The tower shoot is for our less mobile Veterans. We stand around the tower and they’ll throw birds out so they can still shoot pheasants. The five other groups will go out with the guides and do the pheasant hunt,” says Pauling. The tower shoot idea was founded after the group realized they needed a way to guarantee a fun hunting event that guaranteed a bird for those Veterans with a need for more help with mobility. “We had a 92 or 94-year-old guy that came out to shoot and we realized we wanted to make sure we can accommodate everybody. He thought he would never shoot a bird again, and he had a great time,” says Pauling.

After the hunt, the Chippewa County Pheasants Forever hosts a meal at the Hunting Preserve, offering more time for socializing. They had assistance this year with serving from the Montevideo Future Farmers of America Group and the Chippewa County 4H Horse Group. There was also a raffle for two guns that are given away each year by the Chippewa County Pheasants Forever organization, and the Two Rivers Chapter of Minnesota Deer Hunters Association also gave away a gun. “We’re just so happy to give back to the Vets who gave so much for us,” says Gary Groothuis of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association’s Two Rivers Chapter. “It’s a fun day and it seems like the guys always enjoy it. We have a lot of volunteers and Vets that come from many miles away because this is one of their only chances to hunt. It takes a lot of people to put this together.” 

The entire event is held free of charge to those Veterans and their guests that attend. Those attending are asked to pre-register through the Chippewa County Pheasants Forever Facebook page each year. Pre-registration is not required to attend but is preferred to help with preparing for the event when considering how many birds are needed, how much food is needed, etc.