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Heroes hunt: Event supports Bismarck Cancer Center, soldiers

NEW ENGLAND -- Standing around trucks in the middle of a field at lunchtime Saturday, the 20 or so hunters joke about who is the best shot and who got the biggest pheasant but the hunting gets serious and the causes they gather for do too.

Hunt
Press Photo by Jennifer McBride Mike Donahue, Bismarck, takes a break Saturday in a field outside of New England during "Hunting Dakota with Roosevelt." In the background is former Kansas City Chief running back Ted McKnight.

NEW ENGLAND -- Standing around trucks in the middle of a field at lunchtime Saturday, the 20 or so hunters joke about who is the best shot and who got the biggest pheasant but the hunting gets serious and the causes they gather for do too.

"Hunting Dakota with Roosevelt" is in its third year and its main goal is supporting the Bismarck Cancer Center, which it does in a big way -- raising about $62,000 this year alone.

Beyond fundraising, the hunt is an outing for soldiers and airman.

"This is also a way to recognize the military for what they've done," said Jon Hanson of Bismarck, North Dakota Game and Fish Department hunter education coordinator. He along with Roger Krueger, Bismarck, are co-chairmen of the event. It also strengthens relations with landowners and acknowledges conservation, Hanson said.

Farmers and ranchers allow the hunters on their land, sponsors help with fundraising and banquets, and raffles also bring in money for the center.

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Shane Arlien of Devils Lake returned from Kosovo in May and said not only does he love hunting, but the event is a camaraderie-builder. Three or four soldiers at the hunt were deployed to Kosovo but he also met new friends. "You get to know people real quick and everyone is relaxed."

A fellow hunter was kind enough to lend him a gun and in three shots he bagged his three pheasants Saturday morning. It wasn't the gun, Arlien joked, "just the man behind it."

Iraq veteran Shayne Beckert of Bismarck joined in the hunt for the second year where he "got to meet a lot of good folks and we get to hunt on some of the most premium land."

And though his friend and Iraq War veteran Rob Smette from Bismarck didn't want to share that he is a helicopter pilot and Army Ranger, Beckert wasn't bashful to boast about his friend's accomplishments. This may have caused a bit of a scuffle, but all in good fun.

Smette is thankful for what the sponsors and landowners donate.

"Just being able to be with the guys in a different atmosphere -- to get out of uniform so we can relax a little more and not worry about things at work," he said.

People from across the country joined in the hunt, including Ted McKnight, former Kansas City Chiefs running back, who claimed one pheasant as of Saturday noon (though he joked a few wounded might still be in the field and will make a good supper for some critter). When he was told the purpose of supporting the Cancer Center and the soldiers, he said "it was way too difficult to turn down."

Krueger said funds support the center, along with helping cancer patients pay for meals, gas and other necessities not covered by insurance.

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"We can treat the cancer but it's the patient who we really want to treat," he said, adding the Bismarck Cancer Center provides the highest-quality care and has the best radiation therapy equipment within a 500-mile radius.

The event would not happen without the generosity of nine landowners from Mott and Bowman to New England who donate the wide-open spaces to hunt, Krueger said.

This includes Leland Johnson, whose wife Judy is a cancer survivor. Johnson said that makes being a part of the outing extra special. "It seems like everywhere it affects everybody," he said of cancer. "Plus, the veterans are able to hunt and it's giving back for their sacrifices and it's my very-little way to help, what I am doing personally."

Besides Saturday's hunt, Friday's events included a clay pigeon shoot and an appreciation dinner in Bismarck. During the sunshine and blue skies Saturday, it was all hunting with a Saturday-evening banquet to be held in Medora. Among the guests, Tweed Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt's great-grandson.

Today, they get up and do it all over again.

Related Topics: HEALTHHUNTING
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