Local hunting company hosts pheasant hunt for veteran soldiers
Hunting Buddies Hunting Co. in Litchfield, Calif. partnered with the Fregoso Outdoor Foundation to put on a three-day pheasant hunt for veteran soldiers. Jonathan Belli, top left, Dave Ramirez, Larry Ayers, Vince Herbert, Jim Brown, Adam Ingram, bottom left, Max Fregoso, Chris Berg, Howard Hanlon, and Wyatt the dog pose with the pheasants they got during a hunting excursion Monday, March 18. Photo by Maddie Musante
March 26 — When Jim Brown and Howard Hanlon, of Hunting Buddies Hunting Company in Litchfield, Calif., were approached by the Fregoso Outdoor Foundation to host a special pheasant hunt for veteran soldiers, the pair didn’t hesitate to put together an unforgettable weekend. In fact, within 10 days the hunt was on and five soldiers were having the time of their lives hunting pheasant on Hunting Buddies’ 191 acres of land with the gorgeous high desert scenery as a backdrop.
Larry Ayers, Adam Ingram, Jonathan Belli and Vince Herbert of the United States Army and Chris Berg of the United States Marine Corp, along with Max Fregoso, who worked with Brown and Hanlon to organize the event, enjoyed three days of pheasant hunting with Hunting Buddies Sunday, March 17 through Tuesday, March 19.
Fregoso and his wife started the Fregoso Outdoor Foundation in 2010 as a way to support soldiers, veterans and military families in coping with combat, deployment and adjusting to coming home after war. According to its brochure, the mission of the foundation is to connect soldiers, veterans and military families with the great healing power and natural blessings of nature. Since it’s birth, the Fregoso Outdoor Foundation has taken hundreds of soldiers and their family members on various outdoor adventures.
When he started the foundation, Fregoso said he planned to take just a few guys on a hunting trip or two in the first year. However, word spread amongst soldiers and their friends and within 40 days of the foundation’s birth 18 men were out hunting together. “It just grew and grew,” Fregoso said. And grow is exactly what the Fregoso Outdoor Foundation has done. Last year Fregoso took 138 people on outdoor excursions, including trips to Tahoe for family members of deployed soldiers and a summer trip to Lake Shasta that included 56 soldiers and their families. This year Fregoso will organize another summer trip to Lake Shasta, this time with 70 people, houseboats, ski boats, bass boats and wakeboards.
“You’ve got young guys like this coming out of the military and, you know, in this economy its tough for them to find jobs and different things to do. So our focus is getting them not only into a new hobby or something they used to do, but getting them connected with the right people for jobs … it’s not just going out and having a good time on a one-time hunt,” Fregoso explained while hanging out with the guys after a pheasant hunt on the Hunting Buddies’ land.
Ingram chimed in, saying it was his third time participating in an event that was organized by Fregoso. “September was the first time I did a hunt since I was 14 years old, so he kind of brought me out of a slump,” he said. Ingram is now hooked on hunting again and has invited several friends who are also veteran soldiers on hunting trips with the foundation. According to Ingram and Fregoso, a lot of the events gain participants through word of mouth, which is part of the foundation’s goal—to get veterans talking to one another and enjoying the outdoors together.
“A lot of times this is the first time these guys have held a weapon since being in Afghanistan or Iraq,” Fregoso said. He added that a lot of times soldiers tell him hunting trips are their first time being able to hold a weapon without the fear of somebody shooting back at them.
Hunting Buddies Hunting Co. was the perfect place for Fregoso and the soldiers he works with to enjoy a weekend of pheasant hunting. With the help of several local businesses, Brown and Hanlon showed the group a great time. Brown was amazed at the support they received from the community, saying he was able to walk into local businesses and explain the hunt they were organizing and received sponsorships and donations with no hesitation. On Sunday, Gould Ficardt, owner of Way Station Bar in Greenville, traveled to Hunting Buddies Hunting Co. and cooked the soldiers a dinner of corned beef and cabbage in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.
Ingram had such a good time at Hunting Buddies he plans to bring his son back for some hunting. “My son’s getting of age, so after hooking up with Howard and Jim, I’m going to bring him up and have him do a pheasant hunt,” he said.
The weekend was a huge success for all involved. The five veterans enjoyed hunting 75 pheasants on the Hunting Buddies’ picturesque property and plan to return for more outdoor adventures with the Fregoso foundation.
For more information on the Fregoso Outdoor Foundation, or if you know a veteran soldier interested in getting outdoors, visit fregosofoundation.org or call (916)-275-5372.