Turkey hunt in Wyoming honors veterans

Douglas, Wyo. (AP) – It took three days of waiting out a nasty
spring snowstorm with lots of stalking through the snow and making
turkey calls peeking out from the inside of a chilly blind. Still,
the birds weren’t responding.

Then, finally, after a 200 yard belly crawl, somebody finally
crept up on old tom turkey and took the bird home in the bag.

The one successful hunter, Doug Willyerd of Cheyenne, was among
three military veterans and a 13-year-old son of a vet who enjoyed
three days of an all-expenses-paid guided turkey hunt on the Bixby
Ranch outside Douglas last weekend.

The hunt was courtesy of the Casper and state chapters of the
National Wild Turkey Federation, landowners Dave and Nancy Hudson
and local business sponsors.

The charity hunt was a special way to say thanks to Wyoming’s
members of the military who have served overseas, said Tim Farris,
the Turkey Federation volunteer who organized the event after
coming up with the idea last fall.

“I felt that our military personnel in Wyoming needed more than
just a handshake and a pat on the back,” Farris said.

For retired Air Force sergeant Tim Dunn, whose 24 years of
service in the Air Force took him to 68 countries, the hunt
provided an opportunity to bond with his 13-year-old son,
Austin.

Calling in a flock of hen turkeys and having them come within 10
yards created a memory for the father and son that will last a
lifetime. You’re not allowed to shoot hens, so they just sat and
watched the birds. Seeing them up close like that with his son was
a special thrill, he said.

“Everything that they did for us -all the food, all the
preparation, the lodging – everything was just great for us. And I
think it really left a positive impression on my son,” Dunn said.
“That was a great thing for me and for him to enjoy it, and give us
a chance to talk about it, and share the experience together. What
they did was just wonderful for everybody.”

The hundreds of Wyoming’s national guardsmen deploying to the
Middle East in recent weeks were on everyone’s minds. The group
plans to hold a similar hunt for war veterans next spring and
Willyerd, who works for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs,
said he plans to help out as a volunteer.

“I feel concerned about the families that are left behind for a
year. I know how I would feel if I was in their shoes,” said
Willyerd, who retired from the U.S. Army National Guard in
2003.

The charity hunt gave Willyerd the opportunity to try out turkey
hunting for the first time.

“It’s a great thing,” Willyerd said in appreciation of the
Turkey Federation’s efforts. “It honors us for our service and,
yeah, it makes you feel good. It brought back feelings of being
proud of serving.”

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