In a few short months, tree leaves will begin changing color throughout Indiana woodlots. This display of color not only signals the coming of fall, but also the start of the much anticipated hunting seasons.

Unfortunately many children will never know all the joys and life lessons hunting can bring due to disabilities and special needs that may otherwise leave them sitting at home. Their experiences may never include total immersion in a true natural setting. They never asked for it and sure don’t deserve it.

Thankfully the Freedom Hunt offers a chance for these kids to take in the joy of hunting and fishing. This is made possible through a group of dedicated volunteers who work directly with parents to allow those kids to get into the woods for a weekend and focus on traditional outdoor activities.

Freedom Hunt was the vision of Kokomo businessman Steve Griffey. In 2006 Griffey assembled a large group of volunteers who would assist in getting children with special needs off the sidelines and into the woods. Over the past 10 years Freedom Hunt has provided nearly 300 individual hunting experiences with a harvest ratio that often exceeds that of adult hunters.

Youth are treated to a primitive camping experience along a picturesque setting on the Eel River in Cass County. Once the young hunters arrive in camp, volunteers work diligently to make sure the weekend is magical. Participants are provided their own, personal hunting guide, accommodations in tents, meals, gear, prizes and memories that will last a lifetime.

New this year is the opportunity for each child to choose their own unique outdoor experience. In past years the focus was aimed at Indiana’s youth deer hunting season. But this year opportunities for pheasant and squirrel hunting will be available, as well as fishing.

Recognizing many of the Freedom Hunt’s participants are new to hunting, Griffey and co-coordinator Brad Rozzi wanted to provide other types of hunting experiences that may better suit each hunter. Fishing was placed on the itinerary to help round out a true outdoor experience for these special children.

Now is the time for parents to register their youth hunter for the 2016 Freedom Hunt. Griffey asks that those interested register within the next several weeks so hunt plans, equipment needs and accommodations can be finalized.

The hunt will take place Sept. 23-25 and believe it or not, is totally free. Anyone who is interested or would like additional information can visit www.freedomhunt.com, or contact Griffey at 765-459-0755. The hunt is available for youth hunters under the age of 18.

Volunteers are equipped to provide a hunting experience for youth facing a wide range of physical challenges and disabilities. Everyone involved with Freedom Hunt hope to provide a spark in each child that will ignite a life-long passion for the outdoors, setting them free from a world of concrete and asphalt.

TOURNAMENT RESULTS

Members of the Kokomo Bass Anglers recently came off a night tournament held on Morse Reservoir. After the weigh in it was Henry Cavazos claiming first place with his limit of five largemouth bass dropping the scales at 9.09 pounds. Scott Vollmer reeled in second place with five bass topping out at 8.04 pounds. Third place went to Wayne Eads with five fish totaling 8.03 pounds. Sam Taskey carried in the tournament biggest bass tipping the scales at just over three pounds.

Adam Blankenberger and Ethan Miller grabbed top honors at last Monday’s Kokomo Reservoir open team bass tourney, sponsored by Cardwell Built Construction. They won the event with five largemouth bass dropping the digital scales at 9.47 pounds. Bart Grider took second place with five fish totaling 9.44 pounds. Wayne Eads and Henry Cavazos snagged third with five fish weighing 9.36 pounds. A bass tipping the scales at just under four pounds earned Darla and Steve Kelley the tourney’s “big fish” honor.

Cole Kanable and Bob Rose won last Tuesday’s Mississinewa Reservoir’s Delphi-Delco team bass tourney with five fish weighing 5 pounds, 6 ounces. John Benson and Tony Long reeled in second place with two fish weighing 4 pounds, 2 ounces. Third place and “big bass” honors went to Keith Milburn and Ed Lyke with two fish topping out at 3 pounds 15 ounces, their largest dropping the scales at 2 pounds, 6 ounces.

John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at jmartinooutdoors@att.net.

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