Bob Frye / Tribune-Review
Disabled veterans will be able to pursue Canada geese and other waterfowl at Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area on their own day this fall.
An experiment begun at Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area in Crawford County is close to becoming an annual event.
Pennsylvania Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a plan to hold a one-day waterfowl hunt each year at Pymatuning – and in time, Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster County – specifically for veterans with disabilities.
Pymatuning hosted such a hunt last fall. Staff in the commission’s northwest region office conceived of it, and carried it out with help from local waterfowlers.
The volunteers took veterans into the blinds, set decoys, called birds, offered advice on when to shoot and brought dogs to retrieve downed ducks and geese, said Keith Harbaugh, the region director.
The only problem was finding veterans.
“We didn’t get the turnout we would have liked to have had. We didn’t fill the blinds,” Harbaugh said.
Commissioners think they may have addressed one of the main reasons why in their proposal.
Starting this fall, each veteran will be able to bring three family members or friends into the blind with them. They, too, will be able to hunt, said commission executive director Matt Hough.
If the proposal to make the veterans day permanent is approved – something likely when the board next meets in July – the agency’s director will choose the timing of the day each year. Veterans will apply using the regular goose blind application, with winners chosen by drawing.
Middle Creek probably won’t hold any hunts right away, Hough said. The only blinds there are in-ground pit blinds, of a kind difficult for any hunter – let alone a disabled one – to use, he said.
The plan is to add more accessible blinds eventually, when the commission has the money, he said.
In the meantime, Harbaugh hopes the program grows at Pymatuning.
“I think it’s a good way for us to give these guys a respite from their troubles for a day and have a good hunt,” he said.