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Monday, February 26, 2024

Giving Thanks

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It’s Thanksgiving week, and I’m mighty thankful to all of you good folks who read my column. I run into many of you while I’m out and about, and your kindness never lets me leave without a smile. It’s an honor to appear here in the Hernando Sun each week, and for that, I’m mighty thankful, too.

I reckon I’m thankful for family, for good friends and for the beauty of the outdoors, which I often enjoy. I’m thankful to whomever it may have been who invented the bow and arrow, to Fred Bear for modernizing it, and to my dad and granddad, who taught me the art of its use.

I’m thankful to our Lord for allowing me so many reasons to wake up with a smile each day, for having been born in Florida, for whitetail deer, Osceola turkeys and them other delicious critters I find in the wild places.

I reckon I’m thankful too, and sincerely so, for our military servicemen and women who preserve and fight for me to live a free, albeit somewhat feral, life. They each signed a contract to give everything they hold dear, up to and including their very lives, in order for me to enjoy my freedom. That’s a heck of an important thanks I owe.

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Being so thankful to our veterans is why I volunteer to act as a guide for veterans groups, such as Operation Outdoor Freedom. I guided them just last weekend and had a wonderful time reuniting with some of Florida’s finest whitetail guides and meeting new veterans arriving to hunt.

Operation Outdoor Freedom is a wonderful group of volunteers hosted by the Florida Forestry Service. This past weekend’s hunt, which took place on some pristine lands owned by the FFS in the northeastern part of our county, saw ten hunters (either disabled or recipients of the Purple Heart) paired with ten guides, along with an enormous team of cooks, event organizers, a huntmaster, a cleaning and butchering crew and coffeemaker (oh yeah, I’m thankful for coffee too). The hunting was incredible for the three-day event, in which those ten hunters harvested seventeen deer! How cool is that?

Since its inception in 2009, Operation Outdoor Freedom has hosted more than 500 events and served approximately 4,100 wounded veterans. Participation in the OOF program has been established for Florida residents who are honorably discharged military veterans with either a service-connected disability rating of 30% or greater from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs or a Purple Heart recipient.

If you qualify to participate or know someone else who could benefit from the opportunity, go to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at www.FDACS.gov, click on the link for State Forest Recreation, and search for the Operation Outdoor Freedom sign-up.
If you need a hand finding further information about OOF, feel free to reach out to me 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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