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story.lead_photo.caption A first-time dove hunter takes aim. Photo by Submitted by Don Dettmann

Throughout the year, strangers visit Don Dettmann's land in Callaway County.

They aren't just coming for the pleasure of Dettmann's company or his 8-acre sunflower field — the visitors are coming to hunt, often for the first time.

Dettmann is eager to share his love for the outdoors. Each year, he opens his land to young and first-time hunters, as well as disabled veteran hunters.

On Wednesday, Dettmann visited the Fulton Rotary Club's virtual meeting to share his experiences with the Governor's Youth Turkey Hunt, first-time dove hunting events and deer and dove hunts with AMVETS.

Dettmann, a retired army colonel and banker, is a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation's local chapter, the Kingdom of Callaway Limbhangers, and AMVETS Outdoors.

In Missouri, NWTF hopes to conserve wildlife habitat and recruit new hunters.

"In our county, we are doing very well," Dettmann said.

Dettmann said he is one of 17 or 18 landowners in the county who invite youth hunters to their land.

"The kids get all excited — they get all fired up," Dettmann said. "It's almost like waiting for Christmas Eve, waiting for Santa Claus to show up."

Dettmann has participated for eight years.

"Unfortunately last year we couldn't do it because of COVID, but we're hopeful and optimistic we can do it this year," Dettmann said.

During the youth hunts, children from across the state are paired with a mentor. The children learn about conservation and hunting safety and practice shooting before going out to spend a morning hunting.

"Sometimes this is the first time the kid has ever shot a shotgun before," Dettmann.

Dettmann told stories from hunts, describing excited city children whose parents supported their interest in the outdoors and small hunters bagging birds almost as large as they are.

"Kudos to the parents for not saying no," Dettmann said.

Another activity Dettmann participates in is first-time dove hunts. Dettmann works to maintain an 8-acre sunflower field with the support of NWTF. Dettmann estimates he dedicates roughly 200 hours to preparing the field. The flowers are popular with doves, finches and turkeys, as well as local photographers.

In the fall, 35 first-time dove hunters come out, often shooting hundreds of birds.

In 2019, Dettmann and four other landowners invited 15 disabled veterans to a deer hunt. For some veterans, the events are popular for the camaraderie. Dettman said the veteran mentors and hunters shared stories, fellowship and food.

Last year's AMVETS hunt was canceled due to the pandemic, but this year Dettmann hopes to be able to host a hunt for veterans who have lost a limb.

"This year I'm focusing on disabled veterans who have lost a limb," he said. "Disabled veterans who have lost a leg or arm who want to get back to the outdoors. I want to give them that push to get them out there."

Dettmann himself grew up with a love of the outdoors.

"Every time we went to grandma's house, I was always out in the woods doing something," he said.

Dettmann's father died when he was young, but his mother made sure that he and his brother were introduced to the outdoors.

"I learned early on that it was important for parents to get involved with their children and get them excited about the outdoors if they want to," he said. "I'm trying to pass that heritage down to my grandkids."

The Callaway Limbhanger chapter plans to hold a banquet at 54 Country on Feb. 19 — the dinner will help fund the conservation and hunting efforts. To learn more about the event, contact John Burk at [email protected] or Dettmann at [email protected]

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