MILAN, Tenn. - On March 19-20, 2011, before the official opening of Tennessee's Statewide Spring Turkey Season, wounded veterans received the rare opportunity to hunt wild turkey in the fields and forests of Milan Army Ammunition Plant.

As a result of a partnership between the National Wild Turkey Federation and the MLAAP natural resources office, 14 wounded veterans entered the installation's gates in hopes of bagging the largest longbeards they could find.

Assisting the veterans in their hunts were 29 NWTF volunteers. These guides helped the hunters transport their gear and equipment to the various hunting zones throughout the plant's 22,000+ acres of stubble fields and ammunition igloos.

Once setup, hunters utilized specially-designed hunting blinds, or handicap enabled structures made for sheltering hunters from weather and wildlife. These structures, painted with dark camouflage markings, help hide hunters from sight while they watch for their prey. The blinds are also placed strategically on the plant for optimum hunter advantage.

According to Steve Stephenson, forester for the MLAAP government staff, "The number of turkeys harvested annually on MLAAP land ranges from 83 to 125 per year."

On this March weekend, six hunters harvested ten birds, five on Saturday and five on Sunday, for a success rate of 43 percent. The largest bird weighed 24 pounds, and the longest beard was 13.55 inches.

When asked about the history of the plant's turkey hunting program, Stephenson explained, "[The plant] was stocked with 12 birds in 1974. The first hunt was in 1987. Three birds were harvested during that hunt."

The wounded veteran hunt at MLAAP was a community effort. NWTF requested permission from Lt. Col. Maria Eoff, commander for MLAAP, who approved the request. The Tennessee National Guard provided barracks and a mess facility to the hunters for their overnight stay. A local citizen provided all food and preparation of the food in the dining facility.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16