April 23: Corpl. Catlin Mixson

I was honored when I got the call from Doug Hutchison (Drury Outdoor National Sales Manager) asking if I could go guide and film a hunter in Campbell Co., Tennessee on a Wounded Warrior Turkey hunt and represent Drury Outdoors as I have been blessed to be able to do going into my 15th year.

This event was hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Terry Lewis on the C.O.R.A (Campbell Outdoors Recreation Association) property. This event was also a joint hunt for The Pine Mountain Lonbeards Chapter of the NWTF.

Mitzi and Ray Ivey started this event and this one was their 6th annual Wheelin' Sportsman event.

With a turn out of around 125 people it was truly a great event and a well organized one as well. I took great pride in doing this hunt for a number of reasons. The first was it was in my home state of Tennessee. The second it being a NWTF event in which Mitzi Ivey and myself are on the state board. Third being that the bus the soldiers arrived in was bought by the State of Tennessee Chapter of the NWTF for which I am the Vice President. The fourth being getting to represent Drury Outdoors and last and the most important one was to get to give back to all the soldiers that have sacrificed so much for every citizen in this country so that we get to do all the things that we love to do.

The soldiers that took part in this hunt are part of a program named after a common term used in the army HOOAH!

SFC Gullion started this program and put a name to it usingthe term HOOAH ( Healing Outside Of A Hospital). It is a program to help wounded soldiers to heal and to regroup their lives in the outdoors. By seeing what I saw first hand this weekend it is a great program and it is working! This was a great group of soldiers with a terrific attitude toward life and absolutely not one with a regret of having served this great country!

My soldier to guide and film was Crpl. Catlin Mixson a Florida native. He was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. He was wounded on Sept. 4th 2007 by a roadside bomb. He was the only survivor that was in his vehicle. The result of his injuries were the amputation of both legs, left elbow replacement and multiple injuries to the arms and a skull fracture.

As the bus rolled in with the soldiers and they stepped out to a standing ovation that would give anyone alive goose bumps and those smiles on their face is a site that I will never forget. As I was introduced to Corpl. Mixson we started to make plans for the hunt. He was pumped because this was his first hunt for a eastern bird. We were told at the meeting to be up and at the site by 4:00 am.

After a short night we all met and Mr. Lewis gave everyone a safety meeting and informed all the guides of there duties and responsibilities. Then we loaded up the Polaris Rangers and we were off! We had Mr. Steve Cooper from Sweetwater,Tn. with us as well. Steve is employed by Sea Ray boats who was a sponsor of the event.

As we all got into the blind and waited on daylight to break the gobbling started off with a bang! We had a Shady Lady and a King Strut decoy out and we where ready to go.

The birds gobbled good on the limb but the action slowed as the morning went on. Them we finally had a jake to come in and Catlin said no way my first eastern is going to be a longbeard! We hunted until lunch and a jake was all we seen on the morning hunt.

During lunch they had some activities lined up such as a drawing for a new pistol, a turkey shoot for a new shotgun, a silent auction and a awesome lunch. They had volunteers that came all the way from Illinois to do the cooking.

With a storm on the radar and the rain starting to fall we climbed back into the Rangers and back to the blind we went. It was raining as we got everything into the blind and we were hoping the birds would hit the field we were hunting.

Finally we had birds come into the other end of the field. They fed for a while then left not paying any attention to the calls. About an hour later here they came back to the field in the same spot. This time with a few light calls the birds started working their way to us slowly. The we caught a break and a hen popped out to the right of us between the gobblers and us, then they started picking up the pace coming right to us. With three longbeards and 3 jakes all together Catlin asked which one? As I was filming all the action I was looking to see which was the biggest bird. I spotted the one we wanted and we had to wait until he cleared the rest of them so he would not hit more than one. I gave Catlin the go ahead to shot and he did not waste anytime! When he pulled the trigger the old tom hit the ground!

As Steve went to get the bird the celebration was on. As he got back to the blind we saw up close and personal how good of a bird he was 22 1/4 lb. 10 " beard and 1" spurs! All of the soldiers put in a few bucks into a pool and which ever killed the biggest bird won the pot.

It turned out to be a awesome weekend for Catlin. He won the pot for the biggest bird, one the drawing for the pistol and killed his first eastern turkey. It was a blessed weekend for Steve and I, we made a great friend, shared the sport that we all love with a true hero and most all made everlasting memories with a group of men that made it all possible do what we all take for granite in everyday life. That is the soldiers that fought to give us the right to do so! This HOOAH program is a great program and I have seen first hand that is working!

So when you see a soldier give him a shout of HOOAH! And thank them for the sacrifice that they have made that gives us the privilege of living in a free country!

I would like to thank all the people that gave their time and support to this hunt! I would like to thank all the
sponsors that helped make it possible and C.O.R.A for hosting the Wounded Warrior hunt and the Pine Mountain
Lonbeards for hosting the Wheelin Sportsman hunt.

Most of all I want to thank every single veteran that has served this great country! I speak for all of us here at
Drury Outdoors and all our team members families when I say "Our thoughts and prayers will always be with you"!