10/10/2017 4:23:00 PM Buckeye Hero Hunt set for third installment Annual event set for Oct. 13, 14 and 15 at Zaleski State Forest
Shown above following a successful outing during the 2016 Buckeye Hero Hunt are (from left) Hunt Director Ron Collins, 2016 Buckeye Hero Hunt veteran hunter Donald Hazelwood and ODNR officer Chris Gilkey.
Since its inception in 2015, the Buckeye Hero Hunt has brought together two groups of men and women - disabled veterans and hunting guides - for a weekend of camaraderie.
This marks the third year for the now annual event and on the dates of Oct. 13, 14 and 15, a total of 16 disabled veterans will take to the woods at Zaleski State Forest in Vinton County along with a number of guides, volunteers and wildlife experts for a guided deer bow hunting experience.
The Buckeye Hero Hunt, whose stated mission is "to provide an opportunity for veterans who have sacrificed for us," is organized and operated by a board of eight area residents, including Chairman Paul Haller and Wellston residents Ron Collins and Chris Barber. Collins is the man responsible for bringing the idea to Ohio after seeing a similar project being conducted in Georgia. In its first year, the hunt included 12 disabled veterans from the Vietnam War to Afghanistan, with that number increasing to 15 for the 2016 event.
The Buckeye Hero Hunt board is composed of all volunteers, with even the professional guides donating their time. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Ohio Division of Forestry are all partners and supporters, but the Buckeye Hero Hunt receives no government funding.
Despite this fact, the veterans receive an all-expenses paid hunting experience, complete with free lodging and meals during the Buckeye Hero Hunt. This includes providing the services of a skilled hunting guide, basic hunting training, and the use of hunting equipment and gear. Local businesses, organizations and individuals also step up each year to provide monetary and material donations and other forms of support.
According to Chairman Haller, some of this year's major sponsors for lunches and dinners throughout the event include Jackson AmVets Post 84, the Wellston American Legion Post 371, the Jackson County 40 and 8, McArthur VFW Post 5299, the Jackson Elks Lodge #466, and Rowdy's Smokehouse of Jackson. As for boarding throughout the weekend, veterans will be staying at the Lake Hope Lodge.
Aside from the bow hunts on Saturday and Sunday, a fish fry and awards presentation will be held Sunday afternoon from noon to approximately 2 p.m. at the McArthur VFW Post 5299. At that time, the hunters will be introduced individually, various acknowledgments and awards will be delivered, and all of the deer harvested to that point will be put on display before the event's final hunt takes place.
In order to be considered eligible for the hunt, applicants must be qualified disabled veterans that are residents of Ohio, who have been honorably discharged from the military. Additionally, all hunters must possess an ODNR Division of Wildlife free hunting license. Participants are chosen via a random drawing by Buckeye Hero Hunt Board members.
The Buckeye Hero Hunt Board consists of: Chairman: Paul Haller; Hunt Director: Ron Collins; Assistant Hunt Director: Mike Connett; Secretary: Lisa Bentley; Treasurer: Chris Barber; Equipment and Logistics: Steve Forgey and Nick Morgan; 40/8 Representative: Jerry Collins; ODNR representative Jared Abele; and Appalachian Quail Forever Rep: Josh Fee.