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Purple Heart Outdoor Tour kicks off in Edison

Southern Wilderness Plantation to host military vets at annual quail hunt

EDISON — Top military shooters from across the country will be gathering this weekend in south Georgia for a weekend of quail hunting as the Purple Heart Outdoor Tour kicks off at Southern Wilderness Plantation in Edison.

The Purple Heart Tour is an organization which honors combat-wounded and valor-decorated soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen by treating them to shooting and hunting events at different locations throughout the United States.

The Purple Heart Quail Hunt at Southern Wilderness Plantation marks the start of the tour and is the largest event of the year, drawing more than 40 active duty soldiers, marines and veterans to south Georgia.

“It’s the big one of the year,” said Dan Hammack, a former U.S. Army Green Beret and owner of Southern Wilderness. “We’ll have shooters from all over the country. We’ll have active duty members of the special ops community, green berets from Eglin and Fort Bragg, MARSOC members, Rangers, the Ranger training battalion from Fort Benning, veterans from all branches of service and this year we’ll also have 911 survivors from the New York Fire Department. They are always top of the line guys.”

Hammack said active duty participants in the hunt are chosen by their respective branches and commanders and must have served since 911 or been awarded the Purple Heart or other valor citation.

“We did not select the hunters,” said Hammack. “They are selected by their peers.”

The invited hunters will arrive Friday and spend the afternoon partaking in various events at the plantation such as a fish fry hosted by the New York and Key West fire departments, a shotgun demonstration by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Team and the Ultimate Hunter Challenge.

According to Hammack the hunter challenge is a full spectrum contest of slaying skills and abilities designed to help the guests get to know each other and have a little fun.

“We do that as an icebreaker,” Hammack said. “We’ll do subjective evaluations like style and attitude. That’s for fun. These are top of the line warriors but they don’t themselves too seriously.”

The main event, however, will occur on Saturday when the invited guests will partake in a guided quail hunt. There will be a morning hunt, followed by a lunch provided by the Edison Baptist Church. After lunch hunters will return to the fields for an afternoon hunt.

Hammack said guides from Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and North Carolina will be present to assist the hunters, as well as providing dogs for the hunt.

After the day of hunting the guests will then convene at McClendon Barn in Leary for the Warrior Outdoorsman Banquet, where event organizers will give out the Patrick Sweeny Memorial Outdoorsman Award, which is given to the event participant who best exudes the spirit of the warrior outdoorsman and while showing outstanding character as chosen by their peers.

This year’s event marks the seventh Purple Heart Quail Hunt organized by Hammack at Southern Wilderness.

“This is just a great opportunity for these guys to relax and intermingle with other branches,” Hammack said. “It’s about getting away and having fun and experiencing the hospitality and appreciation of southwest Georgia. The guys remember this.”

Sponsor’s for this year’s event include Bo Henry and Stewbo’s, Albany Beverage, American Legion Post 30, Damascus Peanut, Diverse Power Co., Bank of Edison, US Foods, Applebee’s and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, among others.