ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. --
They were silent and diligent in their steps, carefully following the tenured dog wherever it went. A subtle breeze whipped across the field carrying with it the distinct odor of the prey - and the dog picks it up. Bounding over various obstacles, it leads the participants to a small collection of weeds, completely devoid of motion as it spots its quarry in the mid-morning sun.
Luck permitting, this was what Marines and sailors from the Wounded Warrior Battalion - East aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune saw during the Wounded Warrior Quail Hunt in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., Jan. 29.
“For all you wounded warriors out here today, I thank you,” said Marvin Franklin, special agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency out of Raleigh, N.C. “You may have lost friends or have friends currently in harm’s way who, like yourselves, have provided a blanket of freedom for this country that has allowed us to be out here doing this.”
Through the Big Rack Trophy Club in Roanoke Rapids, approximately 30 participants gathered in support of the wounded Marines and sailor in attendance for the day-long appreciation quail hunt. Two private plots of property in the Halifax County town were exclusively opened for the day’s hunt, strictly out of charity for the wounded hunters.
“After meeting some of (the wounded warriors) at the club recently, I wanted to make sure I could help out with their hunts if possible,” said Herman Massey, owner of one plot of hunting land. “Being a Marine Corps Korean War vet myself, I really didn’t have to think twice about opening my land to them. As long as they have a good time, it’s worth it.”
Quail hunting entails a small group of shooters equipped with shotguns accompanied by a dog and its handler combing through an area known to have quail hiding in various places. The dog catches and follows the scent of the quail, ultimately seeking out its hiding spot and freezes pointing toward it. The hunters then scare the quail out of hiding, and as it flies up and flees, they attempt to shoot it out of the air whilst being aware of surrounding hunters and obstacles.
“When I was on recruiting duty as a staff sergeant, I would take the guys out pheasant hunting,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gary Stouffer, regimental engineer officer with 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. “It’s a great way to get everyone to know one another as well as share knowledge and skills.”
After the morning hunt, participants broke for lunch at the house of Wayne Short, the owner of the second plot of hunting property. Afterward, certificates of recognition were handed out to the various event sponsors as well as to Greg Quiel, a firefighter aboard Camp Lejeune who has continuously aided in previous quail hunts for the wounded warriors.
“While this hunt is for the wounded warriors to get out and have a good time, this day is in honor of Gary and all he’s done for us,” said Sgt. Travis White, patient with WWBN - East and event organizer of the hunt. “While there are only six of us wounded guys from Lejeune, he makes sure there are plenty of other hunters and supporters that come out here to hunt with us. We’re two hours away from base in the middle of nowhere and people we don’t even know are showing up to thank us.”
Following the second half of the day, all shooters and participants met up at Mr. Shorts’ house once again for the final tally of bagged quail: nearly 40 kills. After individual shooters’ numbers were turned in, three statues were awarded; one for best shooter and most kills, one for best dog and handler and one for most misses. The quail were then plucked and gutted and divided among the shooters, their fate now only to be a succulent dinner.
While many attendees did not know one another, at the end of the day new friends were made as well as new future hunting buddies. The event was not just to show thanks to the various wounded warriors who participated, but to also bring together strangers under the roof of a common interest. The shotguns put away for another day and the quail bagged, it wasn’t just the end of a day, but the start of more to come.
“This is just my, and many others’, way of saying thanks for what they’ve done for our country,” said Quiel. “There’s no money exchanging hands for participation on behind-the-scenes deals - the smile on their faces means it all.”