Chester Woods Park hosts 11th annual Disabled American Veterans deer hunt

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(ABC 6 News) – The 11th annual Disabled American Veterans deer hunt is officially underway at Chester Woods Park in Eyota.

The hunt is organized by the Olmsted County Parks and Veteran Services departments.

To participate in the hunt, service-connected disabled veterans were required to fill out an application. Once their applications were approved, veterans received a written permission slip to be allowed onto the grounds. This year, 30 hunters were selected.

“We really try to make this an accessible hunt for those who maybe aren’t able to hunt anymore, or who think their hunting days are behind them,” says U.S. Army veteran and Olmsted County Veterans Services’ Ashley Laganiere. “We will provide weapons, ammunition, hunting gear, a guide, anything that can get those most disabled veterans out in the woods and provide them with that hunting experience that may have once been so rich to them.”

Langaniere says a big part of the weekend is camaraderie.

“You’ll even see veterans here who aren’t hunting, who just comes here to share a meal. It’s that camaraderie that really brings us together during this week,” says Langaniere.

U.S. Army National Guard Veteran Jim Hockinson has been coming to the DAV deer hunt for three years, “to me, it’s like winning the lottery, it’s amazing spending the weekends with veterans. It’s my favorite time of the year. I mean, even if I don’t shoot a deer or anything, just a weekend with other people, we’ve all walked a mile in each other’s shoes. It’s almost tear-jerking.”

Another purpose of the hunt is to keep the numbers of the Chester Woods herd healthy and manageable.

Chester Woods Park will re-open to the public at 5 a.m. on Nov. 14th.