This year marked the 3rd Annual National Guard Appreciation Deer Hunt, founded and organized by Mike Christen.
When asked what inspired Mike to coordinate such an event, he responded by telling that he’d been in the guard for 34 years, though was never deployed. After he retired, he wanted to do some sort of appreciation for other guard members.
Initially, the hunt was set up for two groups, junior and senior members, but this year there were three, including a females only group.
The selection process began by Mike having an announcement put out to the troops in Lincoln. A committee there then selected the participants for the hunt and notified Mike. After that, Mike contacted the chosen hunters and coordinated the dates and seasons.
When questioned about the selection criteria, Mike explained that the opportunity went first to disabled veterans, then to purple heart recipients, on down to guards who have been deployed and then other current guard members.
The hunters were able to select their season of choice between bow hunting, black powder, or riffle and then they and a guest ventured to central Nebraska for the three-night and four-day hunt.
The event was a collaborative effort between many local businesses, who donated everything from lodging, food, entertainment, fuel, and even the processing of the meat. Mike also served as a guide during the excursion and offered his land to hunt on. Additional ground for hunting was supplied by Cliff Burnett, to make sure one area didn’t get too crowded.
One of the featured hunters was Candice Carr. She’d been in the guard for ten years and was deployed to Iraq from Dec. 03 until Feb. 05. This was her first hunting experience since she was nine and she was able to claim a 4 by 5, whitetail buck.
“I don’t know what else to say, he was just kind of standing in the trees, looking right at us!” told Candice. After discussing how amazing both the generosity and overall experience was, Candice closed by saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you to everybody on the list, especially Broken Bow Pack. They came in after hours to handle our deer.”
Another selected group was Shane Varejcka and his son Devin of Lincoln. Shane is a Captain in the Nebraska Guard and has toured in Iraq. This was he and his son’s first time hunting and they were lucky enough to both bag their deer. Devin, age 15, shot a 2-point yearling buck and his father, Shane, got both a mule and whitetail doe.
The final hunter to be chosen was Lynn Irons, who brought her husband as her guest. Lynn has also toured and upon her return stateside, sustained a broken back in a horse riding accident. The mishap ended her military career after 29 years but with the assistance of her husband and occasionally a cane, she is able to get around. Lynn is an avid hunter and was able to take a nice 4 by 5 mule buck. In a thank you letter left for Mike, she wrote, “The towns of Broken Bow and Merna are wonderful and very caring communities. It’s nice to know that people appreciate soldiers.”
With the hunt a success and all parties securing their deer, Mike and the hunters wanted to send their thanks to all participating businesses and individual parties who donated their products and services to the National Guardsmen and their guests.