Fishing, Hunting

Freedom Hunters: Honoring Our Veterans

Originally published on GoWild.

Our veterans have made so many sacrifices for the betterment of our country, for our liberties, and for the greater good.  They have sacrificed their health, time with their families, and time for themselves.  They have missed out on holidays, birthdays, family events, and many have missed out on hunting and fishing traditions as well. 

Freedom Hunters made the 2019 Hartstown Veteran’s Pheasant Hunt possible.

Freedom Hunters Helps Get Veterans Back to the Outdoors

Jim Shockey, an award-winning outdoor writer, photographer and wilderness guide, understood the importance of our veterans and the sacrifices they’ve made.  He wanted to honor them, so during a dinner one night he turned to Anthony Pace to help come up with ways veterans could be honored.  Anthony came back to Jim with an idea for an organization that helps connect veterans with conservation groups, outfitters, land owners, and other supporters to go on outdoor adventures.  That was more than 16 years ago, since then Freedom Hunters, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization,  has helped more than 10,000 veterans, and their families, find their way back into the outdoors. 

Freedom hunters helps facilitate all manner of different types of outdoor adventures.  From a day of shooting prairie dogs, to week long whitetail hunts, and even Jim Shockey’s all-expenses paid Military Tribute Hunts, each outing is worthwhile and beneficial for the veterans. 

When talking about the impact Freedom Hunters has had on participants Anthony said, “Anything to get them off the couch, a half day fishing trip can help turn their life around.”

What a Difference a Weekend Hunting Can Make

Anthony recalled a memorable weekend of outdoor adventures he had the opportunity to share with Todd Rito, a veteran that was recovering in Walter Reed Hospital from injuries sustained while in Iraq. 

“Here was this country boy stuck in the city and it was driving him nuts not being able to get out into the woods,” Anthony explained.  So they planned a weekend of hunting and fishing in Florida.  “An hour and a half after getting off the plane we were chasing hogs in the swamp.  You couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face!”

Over the next few days they were on an airboat chasing hogs, turkeys, and gators in the swamps of Florida. 

Hunter and U.S. Army Veteran Todd Rito.

“When you first get wounded like that you go through a period of depression,” remembers Todd.  “I didn’t feel like I was worthy of it,” when he was first asked to go with Anthony on the hunt. “It changed me. It lifted my spirits up and gave me the confidence that I could still get out there and do the things I love to do. It’s a great organization,” said Todd. 

Now retired from the Army, Todd is a volunteer for Freedom Hunters, helping raise funds for the organization.  He also helps coordinate an all veteran shooting team for an event at the Rockcastle Shooting Center in Kentucky.

How Veterans Can Apply to Participate

Any and all military veterans are encouraged to apply to participate in a hunt or outdoor adventure.  Freedom Hunters has hosted World War II veterans up to active duty service men and women, and everything in between.  Many veterans that have gone on the hunts that Freedom Hunters coordinates have had limited to no amount of hunting experience. 

When asked if hunting experience is necessary Anthony had this to say; “I like to see new guys get an opportunity to hunt. So many times we’ve had guys do something for the first time, then they are hooked for life.  It just takes that first experience and they build on from that.” 

Veterans can go to the Freedom Hunters website to apply for an outdoor adventure.

Anthony and his team review applications and do their best to pair applicants with the best opportunities that fit their interests, abilities, and location.

Happy Mother’s Day

Like many hunters, I was introduced to the world of hunting through my Dad.  Because of him I learned how to be a hunt and what I needed to do to be a successful hunter.   But that’s not what this is about.  There are other important people in my life.  These important people may not have been in the tree stand next to me, or trudged through the brush, but still support and encourage me to pursue my passion. Continue reading


My Take: Sunday Hunting in Pennsylvania

UPDATE: After reading many different comments of why Sunday hunting is bad from non-hunters on Facebook I felt like I had to address that argument as well. 

Last week a Sunday hunting bill, sponsored by Dan Laughlin of Erie, passed the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee.  This bill, SB 147, will give the Pennsylvania Game Commission the power to regulate Sunday hunting.  Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that does not allow big game hunting on Sundays.

I have been a lifelong Pennsylvania hunter.  I have never hunted in another state, even while living a short distance from a neighboring state.  As a kid I never gave it much thought, it was what it was and I had little power to change it.  I was happy to hunt on Saturdays, and school days were short enough I could get in the woods for evening hunts.

After graduating high school my hunting adventures decreased dramatically.  For the most part hunting was replaced with fishing, not only because of having more days available, but because I was living in close proximity to great fishing.  The Erie tributaries for steelhead while getting my undergraduate degree at Penn State Behrend.  Then, while getting my graduate degree at Lehigh University, I took advantage of the many different trout streams that flow throughout eastern Pennsylvania. Continue reading

Stewards for Hunting

We Must Be Stewards for Hunting

Article originally featured at GoWild

“In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen.” -Theodore Roosevelt

It’s well known that hunter participation has been declining for the last several years. This can be attributed to many different causes, lack of access, habitat loss, changing demographics, and countless other reasons. But one thing remains the same, hunters contribute a significant amount of money to wildlife conservation. Not only through organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, and other such groups, but whenever we buy our licenses, or purchase a new gun or archery equipment via the Pittman-Robertson excise tax. In 2016, nearly $700 Million was designated for wildlife restoration throughout the United States because of Pittman-Robertson.

However, as hunters, we have to remember that there are non-hunters and other groups of outdoor enthusiasts that enjoy the same woods and waters that we use. We might not care about how they view what we are doing, but we rely on them to vote and help keep the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation intact. We want one of our greatest natural resources to be scientifically, not emotionally, managed. So we need to care about how our lifestyle and passion is portrayed. We need to show why wildlife still needs hunters and that we are still relevant in today’s world.

Hunters are necessary, even in the modern world

Stewards for HuntingWe must show that we are stewards of the land and wildlife. We must show that hunters are the greatest conservationists and wildlife’s best advocates. But how do we, as hunters, show that? First and foremost, we need to show non-hunters we have the utmost respect for the game we pursue. There are many ways that we can show this respect and help non-hunters understand our passion.

Hunters need to show we are ethical in our pursuit of the wild game we seek. We should not take shots that we’re surprised when we hit the animal. We should only pull the trigger or release that arrow at distances within our capabilities and know what those capabilities are. We need to make a distinction between hunters and poachers. Hunters never take more than what we need or what is legally allowed. Hunters abide by fair chase rules and the regulations set by the state’s wildlife agencies. Hunters understand there is a balance of give and take, and we give as much as, or more, than we take.

On his podcast, The Hunting Collective, Ben O’Brien recently discussed his thoughts on the practice of taking pictures with the harvested animal on his social media page. “Trophy photo”, “hero shot,” “grip and grin,” whatever you want to call them, are a part of the hunter culture. And like Mr. O’Brien explains, I think the pictures are often taken out of context or misinterpreted. I don’t think I’m ever going to stop taking those types of pictures. As hunters we know what they can symbolize, our hard work paying off, spending time and making memories with close friends and family, or accomplishing a goal. We need to share that context with non-hunters and explain what that hunt meant to us.

Stewards for Hunting

Show the beauty of that animal and why we pursue it

Highlight the iridescent feathers instead of a pile of wet, dead ducks. Take a picture of the buck in the woods, where its majesticness is magnified, not in the bed of a dirty pick up truck. Not everyone wants or is ready to see the brutality that hunting can be, we need to show the beauty of it.

Stewards for HuntingMany hunters make the decision to take part in how and where their food comes from. We are not “murderers” for making that decision, and not having someone else provide the meat for us.  Hunting helps create a strong connection with our food. We respect our wildlife when we show their lives were not given in vain. We need to show that the meat that is harvested will be used to nourish ourselves and our families. Hunting provides meat for our freezer and it does it in a sustainable way with much less impact on the environment than other methods. Show how the wild game can be transformed into a gourmet meal, just as good or better than what is served in a high end restaurant. Utilize the wild game to its utmost potential.

Hunting isn’t just about providing meat for the family

Whether people want to admit it or not, humans are an integral part of the natural landscape. We’ve altered that landscape and have become forever intertwined with it and the natural world. Apex predators have been extirpated from areas and other animals are able to thrive with the help of food sources from human agriculture. So, now they need to be managed to help keep the balance, keep populations in check and maintain the natural habitats that are still left. We have to show that hunters are needed to help preserve that balance, so that those “within the womb of time” can also enjoy what we are now enjoying ourselves.

Stewards for HuntingAs hunters, we need to pass on our tradition. Taking someone, especially a kid, hunting that would otherwise not have the opportunity is a great way to keep our tradition alive. Hunting is a classroom without walls, and offers many lessons that can be applied in everyday life. Not only biology and ecology, but hunting also teaches hard work, patience, discipline, morals, humility, and respect. These lessons are as important as ever.

We need to have a unified front, hunter helping hunter. We each have our own personal goals and ethics.  Age, size, or sex, we all have different views on what and why we harvest an animal. But we shouldn’t attack each other for our differences in opinions, because we are all striving to accomplish the same goals. We want to experience the wild.

If we can effectively show the value of hunting, we can ensure that it is not tossed away as some barbaric hobby that is no longer useful. Our wild world depends on hunters, let’s show why that’s the right choice.


Take Your Kids Hunting

Article originally appeared in Houston Safari Club Foundation’s fall edition of “Hunter’s Horn”


Take your kids hunting

Where would I be if my Dad didn’t take me hunting when I was a kid?  That’s a tough question to answer.  Being from a relatively rural area, I probably would have found my way to hunting eventually.  But why leave such a significant experience up to chance?  Hunting is a profound part of our history, our culture, and our lives, even for the people that choose not to hunt.  We should be doing everything in our power to further that tradition, to improve hunter ranks, and to ensure hunting’s future.

Take you kids hunting

That is why it is so important to take our kids hunting. This doesn’t apply to just our own kids, but our kids’ friends, our nieces or nephews, or the kid that lives down the street.  We need to help foster their relationship with the wild so they become passionate hunters and conservationists. The point, the goal, is to get kids, any kid, involved in hunting.   Continue reading


Venison Wellington

Originally featured on Hunting the Empire.

Preparing this recipe is somewhat time consuming and involves some pre-planning, actually cooking the meal is relatively easy.  So, don’t be afraid to give it a try.


  • Half-length of venison backstrap

  • 3-4 green onions, minced

  • 8 oz. mushrooms, minced

  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed

  • Dijon mustard

  • ½ to 1 lbs. prosciutto

  • Puff pastry

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • Assault & Pepper from Tacticalories to taste

  • Canola or vegetable oil

  • 1 tbsp. butter


  1. Liberally season the backstrap with Assault & Pepper.

  2. In a cast iron skillet, heat up the oil and sear the backstrap on all sides, even the ends. Sear it long enough to get a nice dark brown crust.

  3. Once the backstrap is seared on all sides, remove from the skillet and brush the Dijon mustard on while it’s still warm.

  4. While the coated backstrap is resting, add the butter to the skillet with the onions, garlic, and mushrooms and cook over medium heat and stir occasionally.

  5. Once most of the liquid has been evaporated from the mushroom mixture, remove it from the pan and let cool.

  6. While the mushroom mixture is cooling layout plastic wrap on the counter.Make sure that it is at least twice as long as the backstrap.On the plastic wrap, layout the prosciutto, overlapping the pieces.

  7. Evenly spread the completely cooled mushroom mixture on top of the prosciutto

  8. Place the completely cooled backstrap on top of the mushroom mixture, and using the plastic wrap, tightly wrap the prosciutto around the backstrap, holding it in place with the plastic wrap.

  9. Tie the ends of the plastic wrap together and place in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.

  10. While the wrapped backstrap is in the refrigerator, place another piece of plastic wrap on the counter and lay the puff pastry on top and allow to completely thaw.

  11. Once the puff pastry is thawed and the backstrap has been in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes, unwrapped the backstrap and lay it on top of the puff pastry.

  12. Wrap the prosciutto wrapped backstrap in the puff pastry, sealing off the ends and pinching the top edges to create a seal.Cut off any extra pastry.Use the plastic wrap to hold the pastry in place, tie off the ends and place back in the refrigerator for another 15 minutes.

  13. While the fully wrapped backstrap is cooling in the refrigerator, pre-heat the oven to 400°F.

  14. After the backstrap has been in the refrigerator for 15 minutes and the oven is up to temperature, remove the plastic wrap and put it on greased parchment paper.

  15. Brush the entire pastry with the egg wash

  16. Score the top of the pastry

  17. Bake until the backstrap is medium rare, about 125°F internal temperature.This will take about 30-40 minutes.

  18. Once the desired internal temperature is reached, pull from the oven and let rest.

  19. Slice and enjoy!

Continue reading


Embracing Ignorance: Examining the New Jersey Black Bear Hunt Ban

This article was originally featured on GoWild.

This week the newly elected governor of New Jersey announced a ban on hunting black bears on the state’s public lands. Not only is this a political overreach, it goes against everything the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation has established. It was all done in the name of “safety.” But the issue of safety is only a red herring to what proponents of anti-hunting actually want, an outright ban on hunting in general. This is only the first step toward reaching their goal. Continue reading


Fishing with my Daughter

She didn’t care about catching fish.  She just wanted to be there with me, fishing together.  She was happy casting into the waters and watching her float drift in the current.  She was happy to use the pink plastic worms she picked out at the bait shop. She was happy picking the wild flowers on the bank for Mama. She was happy splashing in the mud and water along the stream’s edge.  She was happy racing me back to the van when I said it was time to go home.  She was just…happy.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget the reasons we take our kids fishing.  We take them to be with them, to spend time with them, to create lasting memories with them. Catching a stringer full of fish isn’t necessary to achieve those goals.  It’s an added bonus definitely, but it’s not the point and shouldn’t be the goal. Continue reading

Cooking, Fishing, Hunting

It’s Time to GoWild! The Best App for Today’s Outdoor Enthusiast

Social media – it can be many things, merely a distraction, a cause for stress and anxiety, a place to voice an opinion, or a place to connect with like-minded people that have a shared passion.

Brad Luttrell, a Kentucky native, recognized the power of connecting with like-minded people when it comes to hunting.  He used the typical social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram, but as a passionate hunter he noticed a disturbing trend.  Many times when a fellow hunter would post about their successful hunt on the popular social media sites, they were attacked by anti-hunters.  Strangely enough, people so upset and angry over a legally harvested and well managed game animal were making death threats directed at the hunters.  Continue reading

Cooking, Hunting

After the Shot: Freezing and Storing Wild Game

It was a successful hunt, several deer are headed to the freezer. If I’m lucky, there may already be other wild game and fish in the freezer. It’s important to know what is in the freezer and to be able to easily access it so the wild game and fish that I worked so hard to acquire does not go to waste.

While butchering, or if taking it to a processor, think about the cuts and types of meals wanted. Having a cut ready to go makes deciding what’s for dinner much easier. I butcher my own deer, so cuts I save for specific recipes are the deer’s front shoulder, left with the bone in for a bone-in blade roast. The ball roast from the hindquarter I like to save to make venison pastrami. The neck can be saved for a boneless neck roast. The possibilities are endless. Continue reading