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DAV hunt at Ripley

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15 years and DAV hunt still going strong

The 15th annual DAV hunt took place at Camp Ripley Oct. 3-5. The program is in its 15th year. A total of nine deer were harvested at this year’s event.

Chris Schafer

Staff Writer

Morrison County Record

The coordinators of the Disabled Veterans Deer Hunt don't see a lot of need for alterations. "I don't know what we'd change," Elphege Mrozek, of the Morrison County Chapter of the DAV, said. "The program is pretty set in stone."

It's hard to argue with Mrozek's logic. The DAV hunt has been held at Camp Ripley for 15 years now and it shows no sign of waning in its popularity. This year's event, held Oct. 3-5 once again, had the full complement of 50 disabled hunters enrolled. Over 100 had applied for the 50 available positions.

"Our first year we had 19 guys out in the field," said Dennis Erie of the St. Cloud VA Hospital, and one of the hunt's chief organizers. "The program has really grown."

This year's hunt had a unique look all its own as Camp Ripley simultaneously hosted the DAV hunt and the inaugural Deployed Soldiers Archery Hunt.

The deployed soldiers hunt was open to soldiers who had served on active duty since 9-11. Those taking part in the hunt included soldiers who had returned from Afghanistan or Iraq.

Master Sergeant Lee Stock, taking part in the deployed soldiers hunt, had previously spent a year in Baghdad. "This is a once in a lifetime thing; it's an honor to be selected for the first one," Stock said of his part in the inaugural archery hunt.

There were five members of his company in the hunt and, for Stock, it provided a chance to reunite with old friends and to meet some of the disabled veterans. "The chance to get a deer is secondary," Stock said.

Deputy Post Commander Scott St. Sauver also spent a year in Iraq, his tenure coming in 2005. While serving overseas he noticed a common utterance among hunters from the Midwest. "They kept saying 'I missed the deer season,'" he related.

For the 60 soldiers who took part in this year's archery hunt, this was one deer season they would not miss.

"The volunteers are giving back to what their service meant," St. Sauver said.

The deputy post commander has also been a part of the DAV hunt for eight years, first as a member of range control and now in an organizational role. And, according to St. Sauver, as an organizer, finding volunteers to help with the DAV hunt is never hard. "Soldiers get more satisfaction from this hunt than any other," he said.

This year nine deer were taken in the DAV hunt, and an additional three were taken in the deployed soldiers hunt.

John Christensen, an army veteran from Ramsey, took the first deer in the DAV hunt, the kill coming at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 4. Christensen served in the military from 1979-1982 and suffered a spinal cord injury in 1982. He uses a wheel chair to get around and, because of that, appreciates the DAV hunt all the more. "It's an opportunity to go down range, be out in the woods. Usually I have to be in a vehicle because of the cold," he said.

In the woods, Christensen seems to have the hot hand. He has been hunting in the DAV hunt for five years and the spike buck he took this year marks the third time he has harvested a deer.

"We have stands built so they can go out and be in the woods," St. Sauver said. Erie agreed, adding, "For a lot of veterans there are housing and transportation issues. We can do something for 95 percent of them."

They did so for Christensen, and with his deer harvested, the Army veteran planned to spend the rest of his afternoon visiting with fellow hunters and watching the Twins.

As much as the program is focused on hunting, it is even more about bringing veterans together. This year the three-day program started with a cookout Oct. 2, and meals throughout the next two days were supported by the local VFW and American Legion groups.

Erie said it is the willingness of others to support the program that has kept the DAV hunt going strong for the last 15 years. "We're on our fourth camp commander, and our third DNR commissioner. We have new VFW and DAV commanders but the momentum keeps going. The Rice Sportsmen's Club donated $2,000 to our program for the second year in a row," said Erie. "The people in the chairs change but the program keeps going."

As the 15th annual DAV hunt wrapped up, no one saw any reason why there won't be a 16th hunt and likely a second deployed soldiers hunt. "We are producing a whole new crop of veterans and disabled veterans right now," St. Sauver said. "It's these kinds of events that allow us to give back to these soldiers."

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This is a great program for the deer hubters who might not be able to otherwise hunt for dee.

Great job to all involved with this effort. cool.gif

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I vaulenteer as a group leader every year for this program. Our job is to get the guys out to there hunting spots, and help track, dress and extract if they harvest an animal. We are also there for safety reasons.

I enjoy this more then anything else I have ever vaulenteered for.

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