First-In-The-Nation Moose Hunt Changes Lives for Disabled Veterans

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-- Maine’s first-in-the-nation Disabled Veterans Controlled Moose Hunt is a unique annual program organized by the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services (MBVS) and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W). In partnership with Smoldering Lake Outfitters and other sponsors, the program provides permits, individual guides, all necessary equipment, meat processing, accommodations and travel for 25 disabled veterans to participate in the life changing moose hunt experience.

This year there will be three hunts in August and two in September, all originating in the town of Bridgewater in Aroostook County. The annual cost of the program exceeds $50,000 and is met entirely by sponsorships. Support of this program, both in funding and visibility, is therefore essential to its continuation. Hunt organizers are still seeking an additional $7,000 for this year’s hunts.

Characterizing the hunt as “life changing” is not an exaggeration. It is a phrase often used by the disabled veterans who have participated in the hunt to describe their experience.

“I cannot say enough about what this experience has meant to me and the other veterans who participated,” said Ted Pietz, USMC, Vietnam. “My faith in humanity has been restored thanks to this hunt and the people who make it possible.”

For Vietnam Veterans, the hunt is recognition of their service to our country and a sense of belonging, something they were regularly denied when returning home. To veterans of more recent wars, the hunt is a therapeutic opportunity to partake in an experience that helps them to more quickly assimilate to their disability.

“The hunt gave us the opportunity to heal from each other’s circumstances and we realized that even though we may feel alone, as veterans we are never alone.” said Jake Myrick, a retired U.S. Army Sergeant who served in Kosovo, Korea, and Iraq. “The hunt and its organizers did more for us in a few days than years of counseling could ever do.”

In addition to the experience the hunt provides to participating veterans, it also helps control the moose population, a benefit to local farmers whose crops are often pilfered by the largest member of the deer family.

Individuals and organizations interested in promoting or sponsoring the hunt are encouraged to call Laura Allen with the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services at 207-430-5816 or 207-446-0168.