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Military veterans take part in pheasant hunt

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RENSSELAER FALLS - Pete Barnes said his adrenaline was flowing Sunday when he and other military veterans, accompanied by a guide and a trained dog, entered the fields at Basswoods Lodge and Hunting Preserve, Rensselaer Falls, and took aim on some pheasants that were bought just for them.

“It’s awesome. My adrenaline was flowing. When you hear the sound of wings, that’s an adrenaline rush,” Mr. Barnes said as he and fellow hunter Joe McCarthy posed for a picture behind a row of pheasants that had just been bagged.

This was Mr. McCarthy’s third year of pheasant hunting at Basswoods Lodge and Mr. Barnes’s first time.

“It brought back a lot of memories when I used to do this year ago,” Mr. Barnes said.

He said he heard about the Soldiers Hunt, which was geared specifically toward military veterans and active duty soldiers, from Mr. McCarthy. Thirty-seven veterans participated in the hunt at both Basswoods Lodge and another lodge, Wild Wings Shooting Preserve in Oswegatchie. Twenty-four of them were at Basswoods Lodge.

The pheasant were let loose in the fields and pointer dogs, trained to hunt pheasant by recognizing their breathing, drew the pheasants from the brush as hunters shot them with their shotguns.

By the time Mr. Barnes and Mr. McCarthy had finished their hunt with two other veterans, they had nabbed 12 pheasants - three for each of them.

“They brush ‘em out,” Mr. Barnes said, “and then you take the breast home and eat ‘em. If you like chicken or turkey, they taste the same.”

Bruce E. LaFlair, of Ogdensburg, and his friend Steve A. Geddes, of Morristown, hunted eight pheasant with Ellie, an English Pointer. Mr. LaFlair and his team hunted eight pheasant overall, four male and four female.

“This is the first time I hunted pheasant,” said Mr. LaFlair, a veteran who served in the U.S. Army from 1979 to 1982. “It’s amazing to see what these dogs can do. I just enjoy watching them.”

River Valley Gun Dog Club President Kenneth J. Tynon said the hunt was a collaboration between Wild Wings Club, Ogdensburg, Basswoods Lodge, Rensselaer Falls and the River Valley Dog Gun Club, Ogdensburg. The hunt was free and sponsored by several north country businesses.

“I probably never would of had the opportunity to do something like this - hunt with the dogs - if it weren’t for the club. It’s a difficult to come by,” Mr. LaFlair said.

The River Valley Dog Gun Club had also sponsored a free pheasant hunt for children on Saturday.

“We like to do 40. We struggled and managed to get 37,” said Larry Kring, a member of the River Valley Dog Gun Club.

This is the third year they’ve held the Soldiers Hunt as a way to thank all veterans, Mr. Kring said.

“It was an idea we had three year ago to kind of say thank you to veterans. We decided we wanted to give back to any veterans, not just Wounded Warriors. They don’t have to be a combat vet, just a vet,” he said.

They had 40 participants last year.

“We had no problem raising funds. This year was a struggle,” he said.

While the state provided the birds for Saturday’s hunt, he said they had to purchase those that were used on Sunday for the Soldiers Hunt.

“We solicited donations. It’s a big thing,” Mr. Kring said.

FISHCAP, which is heavily involved with the Wounded Warriors Program, also contributed, he said.

“We got a hold of them on short notice and they managed to fund 10 veterans,” he said. “We really appreciate the local people sitting down and writing a check.”

Mr. Kring said they plan to keep the event going as long as possible, and they also have a Ladies Hunt on Oct. 13. The state will be providing the pheasants for that hunt.

“We have enough birds for 25 women. We’re at 29 now,” Mr. Kring said.

“We’ve more than doubled the number of ladies participating this year,” Mr. Tynon said.

Journal reporter Amanda Purcell contributed to this report.

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