Every August the crew at Legends Ranch suspend their normal operations for two separate but very important specialty hunts. The first is the Legends Youth Hunt, which brings children with a variety of physical challenges and gives them the opportunity to do the kind of things others take for granted. According to Rich DeLisle of SCI SE Michigan Bowhunting Chapter, “Many of these kids are in varying states of physical limitations. Kids that are here one year may not be able to travel or participate the next year or even the next month. That’s why it’s so important to give these young people a few days of fun to let them forget the challenges they have to face every day.”
Robert Sergi, manger of Legends Ranch, and his crew make sure each child has a great time. Over four days they get to go fishing, get a behind the scenes tour of the ranch, pet fawns and have a raucous water balloon fight, all culminating in a privately guided hunt to take a beautiful buck in full velvet.
DeLisle says the joy and smiles make the program special to him. “I see this as a natural extension of having taught my own kids about the outdoors and the respect for nature. If I can make one kid smile, then I’ve succeeded,” he says. After the hunt, Legends Ranch mounts all of the participants deer as a lasting memory. Youth hunters are chosen from applications sent in by SCI Chapters all across the country. DeLisle points out grants are available to help offset the costs for the youth hunt, which removes another obstacle.
Two weeks after the youth hunt, Legends Ranch plays host to another very special group of hunters. These are the participants in the annual Purple Heart hunt, an event that recognizes the sacrifice and challenges that are faced by wounded veterans. In his first year as part of the Purple Heart hunt, Gary Littrell, Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipient, was impressed by the commitment and attention of the Legends Ranch staff.
“Programs like the Purple Heart hunt literally save lives. These veterans are dealing with the seemingly overwhelming limitations of their wounds and it tends to make them withdraw and isolate themselves. Anything that gets these men off the couch and involved in something outside of themselves is a step toward recovery,” says Littrell who also pointed out the staggering and sobering statistic of 23 veterans every day who take their own lives. “It’s critical that programs like the Purple Heart hunt get veterans out with others who are going through the same issues. The Purple Heart hunt helps them regain their self-confidence and lets them know they are not alone.”
This past season, five veterans converged on Legends Ranch for the chance to harvest some truly stellar bucks. Once again, the Legends Ranch crew went above and beyond to ensure their guests had a memorable and successful hunt. At the closing ceremonies, the veterans were given a personalized challenge coin and a set of custom Legends Ranch dog tags. Gary Littrell spoke and gave some special insight into the plight of our wounded veterans and gave them a bit of incentive to get involved in helping other veterans deal with their own issues. The veterans all posed with their deer while the guides sang songs about the hunt.
Robert Sergi and the Legends Ranch crew have been a part of these hunts for a number of years and are always ready to show their guests the best possible time. Both the families of the youth hunters and the families of the veterans could not say enough nice things about the care and respect the Legends Ranch team showed their loved ones. According to DeLisle, “This program and the special effort put forth by all of the volunteers and chapters, helps prove that hunters have a heart as big as all outdoors and we will always rally to help those who can’t always help themselves.”–Randy Gibbs