Date: 24 Oct 15
Time: 4:00 AM
Location: Horicon Marsh
Weather: Overcast with a chance of strong rains
Mission: Duck Hunt for the Veterans
Ripping through the shallows of the Horicon Marsh, we came to rest after propelling the camouflaged vessel deep within the concealment of cattails. Although the tactical, pitch black approach may have felt like a Navy SEAL mission for someone who’s never served, this was quite the opposite. In fact, it was a healing mission.
What started as a simple idea over a Memorial Day campfire between founders Ryan Voy and Chuck Dodge has long since came to fruition. The two men, both avid outdoorsmen and duck hunters wanted a way to give back and say thanks to our veterans. Thus, they fell back on what they knew best, and Horicon Marsh Wounded Warriors Inc. was born. Now serving in its 6th consecutive year, the annual Horicon duck hunt continues to bring veterans together from across the country for a weekend of duck hunting.
Founder, Chuck Dodge, takes a veteran out to one of his secret spots on the Horicon Marsh.
By 4:15 am, veterans were filtering out of the bunk houses, campers, and tents, grabbing a hot breakfast, and were beginning to get excited about what the marsh had in store for them today. A fairly warm and humid morning quickly broke loose and the skies began filling the marsh with needed rainfall. We hunkered down in the pitch black boats with our faces pointed towards the deck as the rains steamed over our hoods. Luckily it was a quick moving storm and the rains subsided just as day broke. Bring on the ducks! Or, so we thought…it appears we set up just east of this morning’s main flyway. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the comradery and one U.S. Marine Corps vet., Ryan Baudhuin was able to make good use of his sharpshooting skills on a lone female wood duck.
Following the morning’s hunt, Macel Dera, U.S. Marine Corps veteran explained what the hunt meant to him and so many other veterans –
“It’s a relief in many ways. It’s great to know that people appreciate our efforts and put on events like this. It’s great to get back behind the gun and shooting as way to get back into the action. As most veterans will tell you, they miss being in the military and it’s almost like a form of PTSD relief. You feel like you’re back in the zone. I really appreciate it.”
As we worked to capture the hunt and the day’s emotions through the lens of a camera, it was impossible not to be humbled. While we are out enjoying these unbelievable natural places here in the Land of the Free, their brethren continue to serve and protect our freedoms.
The morning hunt was not slow to all, as we returned back to the boathouse to a table full of waterfowl. Then again, should this be a surprise? It’s probably a bad day to be a duck when a bunch of professionally trained marksmen are out hunting the country’s largest freshwater marsh.
A wide variety of ducks and several geese hit the water during the annual veterans’ hunt.
Dodge, one of the founders of the Horicon Marsh Wounded Warrior Inc., spoke for us all when he said,
“We wanted to give something back to our veterans. They’re reason we have places like this because they protect our freedoms. This is their day and we wanted them to experience the marsh.”
Now in year six, Voy and Dodge have no plans on slowing down as they’ve already began planning for 2016. To learn more or to get involved visit the Horicon Marsh Wounded Warrior, Inc. Facebook Page.
50+ veterans joined volunteer guides for the 6th Annual Horicon Marsh Wounded Warriors Inc. duck hunt.