by MIKE PEETERS, VETERAN HUNT COORDINATOR
Finally, the weekend the veterans had been waiting for had arrived, and anticipation was in the air. They piled into Kirb’s Outlet in Tulelake to get refuge passes and meet Don Kirby, one of our sponsors for this CWA Veteran Hunt. Handshakes all around, smiles and welcomes from all, and “good luck” as the lucky veterans headed off to Winema Lodge and our hosts for the weekend’s Veteran Hunt at Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Something told them this was going to be good.
The hunt began on Saturday afternoon – an after-regular-hours hunt sponsored by the Tule Lake NWR each year as a tribute to our service members. Anticipation was high as the veterans and their guides headed out to the flooded barley fields and tule patches. Once the decoys were set, guns were loaded and sectors of fire were established, it wouldn’t be long before the ducks began distracting them.
As flight after flight of mallards attacked their decoys, the veterans defended their assigned potholes by trading off shooting greenheads and even picked off a sprig and a couple of wigeon that attacked from the flanks. Thankfully, the veterans demonstrated they were up to the assault and after a short couple of hours, there were four full straps and four empty boxes of shells (which required in-stride resupply).
The veterans headed back to the Winema Lodge for prime rib, drinks and a recounting of the day’s successful defense of their decoys. As the drinks were poured, all agreed it couldn’t get any better than this. Well, unless you had to do it again the next day!
An early alarm went off, but of course everyone was already awake, so it was coffee, donuts and “let’s go get em” as Day 2 of the hunt began. Decoys, guns, shells, waders, calls, snacks, boats and veterans all piled in and headed out once again for the hunt. Cool weather and clear skies greeted them as they set up their decoys and settled in for the day’s activities.
Once again, the Duck Gods shined as mallards, sprig, widgeon, and gadwall landed in the decoys, and the veterans wore out the dogs with retrieval after retrieval. Four full straps and boxes of empty shells later, the CWA Tule Lake NWR Veteran hunt came to a close, and the bows of the boats pointed toward the shore. Another rewarding hunt, sponsored by dedicated folks, and a life-changing legacy for the veterans of our great nation.
A warm and heartfelt thank you to those dedicated folks who made this happen: Ric Peterson, Bill Wright, Don Kirby (Kirb’s Outlet), Winema Lodge and of course the guides: Jimmy Colonico, Zane Peterson, Justin Stell and Bill Holmes.
California Waterfowl and our Veteran Hunt Program would not be able to provide these hunts without the support of all the folks mentioned. Thank you for your time, effort, and hospitality.