Disabled veterans earn special controlled moose hunt permits

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Smoldering Lake Outfitters presented disabled veterans the opportunity to obtain a controlled moose hunting permit to be able to hunt with other disabled veterans.

For some, it was a life changing event.

Russell Mattson Jr., a former sergeant in the Marine Corps, didn’t think it was real at first.

After verifying the email, Mattson met his guide for the trip where they were able to sight their guns and build confidence to hunt moose.

“For a lot of veterans, this is their one great chance to do something like this and have the comradery of the other vets right here with you,” said Mattson. “We all support each other. I've hunted my entire life and this hunt is probably the most memorable one I've ever had.”

The benefits of the program are more than just for the sport of hunting.

The hunt also helps local farmers control problem moose that costs them tens of thousands of dollars a year in crop damage.

“It's a food safety issue as well as an economic burden to our crops they destroy a lot of crops,” said Zach Smith, owner of Smith Farm.

Lieutenant Thomas Ward of the Maine Game Warden Service says this really isn't a hunt, it's a take and removal.

But for Mattson, it's about honoring the legacy he fought for and left behind during the Vietnam War.

“To me, as a Vietnam Veteran, the welcome home was rough,” Mattson said. “But this is the first time I've ever really felt this welcome home. The feeling of it was just fantastic.”

A feeling and experience he say he’ll brag about and share for the rest of his life.