IMPERIAL COUNTY — The Special Liberty Project, in conjunction with Woodland’s Hunt Club, held the annual Veteran’s Pheasant Hunt in Imperial Saturday, January 11. 

“Special Liberty Project strives to get Veterans outdoors in the back country,” said Special Liberty Project Program Coordinator and Outdoor Guide, Kaleb Weakley. 

Based out of San Diego, the Special Liberty Project puts upcoming events out on a website called Eventbrite. 

 “Every Veteran that wants to participate contacts me and I sign them up,” said Weakley.

As per organizers, Woodland’s Hunt Club has been a big supporter of the Special Liberty Project for years for the Pheasant Hunt every January and every Fall. 

“We make sure that everyone has the appropriate licenses prior to the event and if they don’t, we help them go through the Hunter’s Safety Course and get their licensing,” said Weakley.

According to Weakley, once the participants properly signed up and arrived at the meeting point, everything else was provided by the Special Liberty Project, from food, to firearms — with the exception of tents and chairs due to coronavirus health and safety measures.

“We shot sporting clays Saturday evening to get everyone refreshed on shotguns and accustomed to shooting at moving targets,” said Weakley. “We had dinner, then got all of the Veterans around a campfire together, which is what a lot of what these guys miss about being in the military.” 

Sunday morning, the hunters were guided out to the field with a dog handler and two dogs. 

Weakley explained the dogs sniff out the pheasants in the field, then flush them out while the hunter waited for the rooster to be at a safe distance from the dog and handler before taking the shot.

“There was no official competition but there is always that unspoken competitiveness between service members,” said Weakley. 

Nine participants were involved in the Veteran Pheasant Hunt. Of the 30 stocked birds, 20 were bagged.

Standard COVID protocol was implemented, according to organizers. 

As per Weakley, masks were required and when walking though the field everyone was about 20-25 feet apart. Everyone had to bring their own tent so to not share anything while camping spaces were 15 feet apart. 

Some of the meals reportedly prepared via participant donations were buffalo chili and venison breakfast burritos. The Buffalo was said to have been previously bagged in Arizona and the deer in Ohio. 

Organizers informed the Veterans were shown how to process the Pheasants and also given recipes to try. 

“Due to the pandemic, we’ve had less financial structure but have seen a greater need for help with Veterans because of the stay-at-home orders,” said Weakley. “The payoff is getting out there with these Veterans and seeing the true healing that happens when they are able to come together and just be one with each other and enjoy that camaraderie they miss from the military.”

Currently, the Special Liberty Project is in the process of planning two more pheasant hunts in Imperial County. The dates have not yet been determined. 

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