Military Veterans Honored With Annual Pheasant Hunt

by Matthew Wilson

A group of military veterans declares war on pheasants in this annual hunt. The veterans hit the open outdoors to see if they could bag the animal.

The Special Liberty Project, in San Diego, worked with Woodland’s Hunt Club to put on the annual hunt in California. The pheasant hunt was held on Jan. 11 for the group of happy veterans that attended. Organizers have held the hunt every January and also in the Fall for years, even despite the pandemic.

“Special Liberty Project strives to get Veterans outdoors in the backcountry,” Special Liberty Project Program Coordinator and Outdoor Guide Kaleb Weakley told The Desert Review. “Every Veteran that wants to participate contacts me and I sign them up.”

One of the things that the coordinator tries to do is help everyone get the appropriate license. With the exception of tents, the Special Liberty Project provides everything. The organization caters to the food as well as handing out firearms for the hunt. So the veterans didn’t have to bring their own weapons.

“We make sure that everyone has the appropriate licenses prior to the event. And if they don’t, we help them go through the Hunter’s Safety Course and get their licensing,” said Weakley.“We shot sporting clays Saturday evening to get everyone refreshed on shotguns and accustomed to shooting at moving targets. We had dinner. Then got all of the Veterans around a campfire together, which is what a lot of what these guys miss about being in the military.” 

The Veterans Go Pheasant Hunting

After a night of camaraderie, it’s open season the next day. Hunters, along with a dog handler and two dogs, hit the field the next morning to hunt. The dogs proved valuable in sniffing out the pheasants. Meanwhile, the veterans waited with their guns drawn.

Nine veteran competed in the hunt. They bagged 20 of the 30 stocked creatures.

“There was no official competition but there is always that unspoken competitiveness between service members,” said Weakley. 

The organization is planning two additional pheasant hunts for later this year. Despite the pandemic, the organization moved forward with the hunt because of its importance to veterans.

“Due to the pandemic, we’ve had less financial structure but have seen a greater need for help with Veterans because of the stay-at-home orders,” said Weakley. “The payoff is getting out there with these Veterans. And seeing the true healing that happens when they are able to come together and just be one with each other and enjoy that camaraderie they miss from the military.”