WAYNE TWP. – Faith and brotherhood were once again at the forefront of an annual turkey hunt for Veterans in Wayne Township.
A total of 13 veterans and volunteers gathered May 1-3 at the Barrett Family Hunting Lodge near Dayton for the second annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Outdoor/Rugged Cross Outdoors (RCO) Turkey Hunt. ).
“It’s a time when we have the chance to share what we have and really surround it with Christ,” hunt organizer Anthony Infante said of the three-day event, which is sponsored by the two Christian outreach ministry organizations as a way to give back to area veterans for their service with a guided turkey hunt, while engaging them in fellowship to strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ. “That’s really who we all are.”
According to event officials, the veteran turkey hunt was the result of a vision by Infanta to extend the departments’ already existing youth hunts on the same property to other groups of individuals.
“Our organization[s] had wanted to do veteran hunts, but God just hadn’t opened the door,” said Andy Kaminski, executive director of Rugged Cross Outdoors, noting that Infante is involved with both RCO and FCA.
Kaminski said an opportunity presented itself, however, when Infante met U.S. Navy veteran Eric Burkett, who immediately signed on to help bring the veterans’ vision of a turkey hunt to life. ‘last year.
“When Anthony met Eric, it really opened the door for us to host this event,” he said.
Similar to the 2021 event, Infante explained that Burkett joined three other veterans – Tim Rocca, Army; Scott Glassic, Air Force; and Shawn Strobel, Air Force – along with Sims Miess, whose father was Navy SEAL, at the hunting lodge May 1-3 for two mornings of volunteer-guided turkey hunting and an afternoon chukar hunt organized by Eaglerock Setters of Butler.
“Eric contacted some guys he thought would be a good fit for the hunt,” Infante said, noting that none of this year’s veterans except Burkett had ever hunted turkeys before. “Two of them shot their first bird [Monday] Morning.”
One of the first successful hunters was Glassic of Butler who admitted that at first he didn’t quite understand the hype surrounding turkey hunting.
“One of the guys asked me if I was excited to go turkey hunting, and I told him I couldn’t see what it was like to shoot a bird,” said said Glassic. That impression changed on the blind, he said, when he encountered a large turkey that had emerged a few yards from where he was positioned.
“I was shaking and I think I held my breath for about two minutes,” he said with a laugh, remembering the moment he pulled the trigger, shooting the bird. Reflecting on his experience, he said he was now definitely “hooked” on turkey hunting and hopes to share the experience with his son in the future. “It was the most exciting thing I think I’ve done in my life.”
Although the hunt is an enjoyable part of the weekend, Infante said the event centers around evening Bible studies and spiritual messages that encourage the growth of friendships and faith.
“This year, we wanted to be even more intentional with spiritual fellowship for men,” he said, adding that Glassic provided the devotions for the group each night.
Glassic took the opportunity to reflect on her story, highlighting how her faith has influenced her life over the past 25 years.
“If you told me that I was going to do [this ministry] 20 years ago I would have said you were really crazy,” Glassic said, noting that the focus this year was on believing that God is real. “While the guys are sitting in their shades, I wanted to point out to them that they need to look around and watch the woods come alive with the sunrise and really see the hand of God at work.”
Pastor Jamie Kendrew, who volunteered at the event, agreed, stressing that the outdoors is a “place where God shows up”.
“There’s a spiritual, physical and mental aspect to what’s taught here,” Kendrew said, adding that it’s “cool” to see RCO and FCA working together to co-sponsor the hunt. “It’s a blast for me to see people become what God created them to be.”
He said he thinks the valuable part of the ministry is the opportunity it provides veterans to talk to each other and others who have gone through similar experiences.
“Some of these guys don’t get that opportunity often,” he said.
Two volunteers who returned this year to help with the hunt included New Bethlehem business owner and hunting enthusiast Rich Shilling and U.S. Navy veteran Shawn Kotchey, who helped Glassic and Miess catch their first birds on first morning of the hunt.
Kotchey, owner of Millcreek Valley Game Calls, again provided each participating veteran with a personalized turkey call commemorating the event.
“It’s totally awesome,” Kotchey said of the annual hunt. “There are only a few things in life I probably wouldn’t miss, and this veteran hunt is one of them.”