On The Hunt by R. Brian Williams
If the smell of the woods and the crunch of leaves under your boots are sensations that you look forward to throughout the year because fall means hunting, count yourself fortunate that you are a member of the U.S. military.
Some of the best hunting locations out there are not only often not known by most people, but are either at your doorstep or at a post, camp or station near you.
If you live near a large installation, 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 those wanting and willing to hunt. Most installations have a game management plan, where biologists set quotas for certain animals, namely deer, to be taken each year. The issue comes about from having too many of these beasts when they damage (destroy) your new bike, eat all the shrubs at the Command Sergeants Major’s house, or get territorial and harm the beloved family pet.
As strange as it may seem to some, too many of any animal in the wild (or not so wild) 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 your civilian counterparts who want 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 layers of requirements for hunters on post, to include safety classes, additional fees, and qualifications for some areas to hunt over.
And some installations are updating their rules on bringing firearms on post. For example, Fort McCoy will soon require that all firearms brought on to the installation have to be registered through the Fort McCoy Police Department. This requirement pertains to anyone with a firearm in their possession that is on Fort McCoy for any reason including hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, shooting range, or visiting members on the Fort McCoy community.
Be sure to check with the installation you are visiting to see what you may need to do prior to the big day.
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 don’t know about or otherwise cannot access. From prime duck blinds to hardwood timber small game to big game stands ready for you to hunt.
Check with your installation’s MWR office to see if they have programs or can point you in the right direction. A quick web search will turn out such sites as Fort Gordon’s www.fortgordon.com/programs/leisure/ outdoor/outdoor-rec/hunting/, Joint Base Lewis McCord at www. jblmmwr.com/outdoor_rec.html, Fort McClellan’s site at https://al.ng. mil/ALABAMA/Resources/Pages/ FortMGMO.aspx, and Fort McCoy’s https://ftmccoy.isportsman.net
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 often 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?
You can bet there is great fishing out there, too. And the fishing areas often are much easier to access 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 Naval Support Activity Panama City to fish the Gulf, a reservoir on Quantico MCB, or throwing a line at a Fort Leavenworth stocked pond… these opportunities are waiting for you.
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 beachside 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 number of camping sites, tent, RV or cabins is great and many are within a day’s drive of most of the population of the U.S.
Keep in Mind…
When the heat of the chase hits you, sometimes there is a tendency to forget the little things.
This is common when we are hunting and get to the tree stand or duck blind and out that we forgot little, but very important things like shotgun shells or our coffee thermos.
The same goes for hunting on post. Remember to bring your identification card, hunting licenses, and any special requirements that the post/camp/ station may require of you. Get to the check in points early and keep in mind the extra time it will take to get from check in to your hunting spot.
The same can be said for fishing. Remember the extra licenses, life jackets and lures. The boat ramps may be crowded or the lake might have someone in your spot, so plan ahead and get there early to catch the big one!
The Bottom Line
So whether it’s hunting, fishing, camping or all three, you have so much to choose from as a service member. Retirees, active duty, Guard, reserve all can take advantage of these places and are encouraged to do so. For minimal trouble and often minimal fees, you can enjoy your hobby and take the family out for some fun in the sun.