Feb. 3, 2021
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
MT. IDA — Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife officers for the fifth year in a row joined Warrior Hunts for its annual “Squirrel-a-palooza” veteran’s squirrel hunt in the Ouachita Mountains last weekend.
The hunt is a partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers, Mountain Harbor Resort and AGFC, along with several sponsors, The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, The Gear Factory, Sew Perfect Embroidery, The U.S. Forest Service, Smokin’ in Style BBQ, Subway, and Southern Bancorp.
According to Sgt. Jeff Black, who works out of the AGFC’s Hot Springs district, the hunt normally attracts about 45 veterans and their families with 30 to 35 people hunting.
“Well over 200 people have enjoyed this event since 2016,” Black said. “Hunting groups usually consist of 3-4 hunters with many volunteers helping out by bringing squirrel dogs to increase success. And every year, at least one participant harvest their very first squirrel and share that moment with family and friends.”
Although COVID-19 restrictions prevented large groups from gathering at once, that did not diminish the spirit of the event or the fellowship that ensued. In all, 32 people participated in this year’s outing, and 15 of those took to the woods in search of squirrels.
“Family members who didn’t want to hunt were not left out of the fun,” Sgt. Jeff Black of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said. “They all were able to take advantage of the hospitality of Bill Barnes and Mountain Harbor Resort.”
In addition to breakfast, those who elected not to hunt were treated to barge rides on Lake Ouachita, trips to Hickory Nut Mountain Vista and discount services at Turtle Cove Spa.
“After lunch on Saturday, Mr. Barnes even opened up his personal collection of military vehicles for the families to take on joy rides,” Sgt. Black said. “This event defines what outdoor recreation should be. Time spent together with family and close friends, allowing nature to provide an extra uplift of peace, comfort and happiness. It is a true honor to be a part of this event.”
Warrior Hunts was founded by John Nolan. After retiring from the Air Force, Nolan saw a need to provide opportunities for veterans to connect with one another. The non-profit group provides outdoor opportunities for veterans and families of veterans who served on active duty on or after September 11, 2001, and were honorably discharged with a veteran’s affairs disability rating of at least 60 percent and served as a combat veteran, special operator or received a Purple Heart.