by Col. R. Brian Williams
For those of us who pursue wild game for the table, besides Christmas, fall is our favorite time of the year. Not only does college football show up on our huge screen TVs, but fall means “openers” for hunting season. The smell of the woods and the crunch of leaves under your hunting boots are sensations that you look forward to throughout the year. But some of the best hunting locations out there are often not known by members of our Armed Forces.
If you live near a large camp, post or station, you can’t help but notice a lot of furry animals milling about aimlessly, oblivious to the dangers of life on the outside of the wire, and therein lies a great opportunity for the willing to hunt these animals. Most installations have a game management plan that includes harvesting (a kinder, gentler word for killin and grillin) these animals. These biologist set quotas for certain animals, namely deer, to be taken each year. Yep, these cute goats do what animals do and make more every year. The issue comes about from having too many of these beasts when they damage (destroy) your new Volt or Vespa, eat all the shrubs at the Command Sergeants Major’s house, or get territorial and stomp poor little fluffy into worm bait. No kidding, too many is bad so one has to get rid of them somehow. Letting you as a hunter do the removing is a great way to accomplish multiple goals.
Most military installations give preference to active duty and reserve component individuals when it comes time to assign their areas for daily hunts. This gives you an incredible step up from Jody back on the block who wants to kill that wall hanger. However, just dropping by the Department of Wildlife and picking out a great hunting area isn’t that easy. Installations often have multiple requirements of hunters, to include safety classes, additional fees, and qualifications for some areas to hunt over. But in the big picture, these are minor annoyances that given some time, can be easily accomplished, opening up thousands of acres to you that most people can’t hunt. From prime duck blinds to hardwood timber small game to big game stands ready for you to hunt.
|The South Carolina National Guard teamed up with the Carolina Outdoorsmen to hold the first Disabled Veteran Duck Hunt in 2012. (National Guard photo by Sgt. Erica Knight)|
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon the person, most of us don’t live next to a Ft Bragg or Eglin AFB-sized installation. However, most states have a Guard-owned training area that is also open for hunting. That keeps you “in-state” and gives you that added acreage to hunt that most of your buddies don’t have. Typically, the same type of rules will be in effect to hunt there, but the added hoops to jump through is worth it. What could be better than hunting in a “gated community” of wildlife?
But wait! Don’t order now! Did I mention the fishing??? You can bet there is great fishing out there. And it is much easier to get to than the hunting areas are. From docks to boat lifts to fishing points, installations have these as well, and give you a great opportunity to get out on the water to rip some lips or drown a worm or two with the kids. Prime location is one of the high points for these places. Launching a fishing boat from Panama City Beach to fish the Gulf, a reservoir on Quantico, or a tiny pond at Leavenworth, these opportunities are waiting for you. Now get out there and take them!
Did you order the steak knives yet? Well, I didn’t even mention the camping! Along with the hunting and fishing, there are a plethora of camping areas on these installations as well. For a great family time, contact the local MWR site to see what all is out there for you to do. Some of the best sites are not located on the installation but are on a remote site well away from the base. The recreation centers on the Gulf Coast are just one example of this. Setting the family up in a beach side bungalow whilst you fish to your heart’s content is a great way to share the fun of the outdoors without making the family rough it with you in a tent. However, if your family does like the tent side of camping, load up the truck and head out. The amount of camping sites, tent, RV or cabins are numerous and are within a day’s drive of most of the population of the U.S.
So whether it’s hunting, fishing, camping or all three, you have so much in front of you as a service member. Retirees, active duty, Guard, reserve all can take advantage of these places and encouraged to do so. For minimal trouble and paltry fees, you can enjoy your hobby and take the family out for fun in the sun.