The weekend of March 21 through the 23, the American Patriot Outfitters (APO), a local veteran’s service organization that offers outdoor adventures for those that served, hosted its first ‘official’ annual spring turkey hunt for veterans.
American Patriot Outfitters was founded in 2013 by retired USMC Gunnery Sergeant Brent Whitman as a way of supporting and helping our veterans of the United States Armed Forces through camaraderie and a shared love of adventures of the great outdoors.
This year, Madison County was proud to host four veterans that are also native Floridians for the annual Spring Turkey Fling weekend – US Army Retired Lt. Col and current Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs Michael Prendergast of Beverly Hills, Fl., US Army Retired Sgt. First Class Thomas North of Live Oak, US Army Sgt. First Class Caleb Baugh, currently stationed at Ft, Rucker, Ala. and US Army Sgt. Dominic Mascolo, currently stationed at Ft. Rucker, Ala.
After arriving, the evening of March 21 at the APO’s hunting headquarters “FOB Gunny” in Madison County, the Vets began settling in and spending time getting acquainted. Later that evening the Vets were treated to an outstanding BBQ dinner and a “meet ‘n greet” with guests, volunteers and guides. Afterwards, the vets hit the rack in anticipation of two great days of turkey hunting.
As the sun rose March 22, the veterans were treated to a symphony of spring sounds, including sandhill cranes, ducks, geese and of course, turkeys.
Caleb and Dominic, with guides Kit and Frankie Storey, had numerous hens and toms work the areas they were hunting, with Caleb scoring a Jake as the morning ended. Thomas, with guide David Floyd, hunted hard and saw several birds but all stayed out of gun range. Mike and his guide hunted hard, but were disappointed in the signs and number of birds seen. After lunch and rest, all four vets headed out again in the afternoon to new locations.
All continued seeing hens and toms, but they remained just out of gun range as the afternoon faded away.
Sunday morning arrived with the anticipation of having a great hunt. By 6:30 a.m., all had heard birds and by 7:15 a.m., there were hens preening and toms strutting, but as luck would have it, just out of gun range.
As the veterans returned home Sunday, March 23, another chapter for the APO’s Spring Turkey Fling weekend came to a close. Great memories and friends were made. More importantly, the camaraderie and experiences shared hopefully helped fill a missing void.
This event would not have been possible without the help of several businesses and individuals from the Madison and north Florida area. A special thanks goes out to Madison Engineering and Anheuser Busch for providing funding and
outstanding accommodations and meals. Hunting access to properties was provided by Running M Ranch and Floyd Farms of Cherry Lake and Greene Publishing.
Special thanks and recognition goes out to all of our veterans who have given so much to protect the freedoms we enjoy. Stay tuned for 2015 as “APO Spring Turkey Fling” will return bigger and better.