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Monday, February 6, 2023
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Operation Outdoor Freedom

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This past weekend, I spent three days volunteering myself to a group of guides working for Operation Outdoor Freedom, a non-profit organization managed by our state forestry department. Their mission is to bring disabled veterans back into the outdoors by providing quality hunting opportunities on state lands. I was a guide for them last year for the first time and I could hardly wait to do it again.

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We hunted forestry lands near our county’s northern border and man oh man, everybody in attendance was in the highest of spirits and I never saw a single frown the entire three days. Especially from the hunter I was paired with; US Marine, Pablo Arzola, of Miami. A veteran of the battle of Fallujah, Pablo had the kindest, gentlemanly character and he and I hit it off great. We sat in the woods watching bucks and does parade around our blind. Him not wanting to shoot the first deer to come along and me nearly begging him to take a shot. There for a while, I think he wasn’t shooting as he enjoyed tormenting me, his insistent guide.

Finally, early on the last hunt period of the weekend, Pablo placed a beautiful shot on a fat doe and we carried her back to the main camp triumphant and myself, relieved. It was a special time, hunting with Pablo and he and I are planning a number of hunts together now. I’m always plumb tickled, to make a new friend!

As for the hunts we enjoyed, as mentioned above, we saw a ton of deer, and I pulled every trick out of my sleeve to make that happen. The deer were in rut and we witnessed a few bits of breeding behavior, so I laid out scents, both doe in estrus and my own Rebel Yell curiosity lure. I grunted, bleated and even wheezed, the three vocalizations most used during the rut. I even tried starting a mock fight with rattling antlers and guess what, it was working, but only on lesser bucks and doe with my wonderfully stubborn companion dead set on targeting only a trophy buck.

Now one thing I tried, rattling, I normally do not use. What you do is to take a set of antlers, then crash and scrub them together to simulate the sounds of two bucks battling each other for breeding rights. The reason I don’t normally do this is because hiding in a blind, making movements, producing sounds of two bucks, not knowing who else may be hunting in your neck of the woods, could actually draw fire from a less aware, unsafe hunter. However, there were no other hunters in the huge block of timber I was assigned; that aid, if you ever do try it, be safe. Wear blaze orange vests or clothing and if another hunter is seen entering the area, immediately give voice and identify yourselves.

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As always, if you have any comments, questions or just want to share your success from the woods, give me a shout out at [email protected] God Bless and good hunting!

Toby Benoit
Toby Benoit
Toby Benoit is a best selling novelist and professional outdoorsman with thirty-five years of experience guiding and outfitting for big game all across America. Toby is a renowned archer and turkey hunting expert who manufactures custom game calls and is a regular judge at NWTF sanctioned turkey calling events across the Southeast.
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