by Julia Bradley, Licking River Outfitters Volunteer - Friday, January 12, 2018
At the junction of four counties on Kentucky’s beautiful Licking River, more than just local borders are converging. At the Licking River Outfitters (LRO) farm, located near Cynthiana, Ky., a special group of sportsmen and women are welcomed to participate in real fair chase trophy hunting adventures of a lifetime—and it’s all free. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity provides deer and turkey hunts for wounded soldiers, disabled veterans, critically ill and disabled youth.
Existing solely on donations from corporations and individuals, LRO operates through the efforts of volunteers who work the more than 600-acre farm throughout the year—managing it for trophy deer and turkey—and help hunters during the season. No guest pays, and all receive food, lodging, and a guide if needed during their visit, as well as transportation to and from the hunting blinds, many of which are wheelchair accessible.
As of 2017, which marked our 12th year of operation, the number of hunters we have served reached 1,400. Last year also included the receipt of our third NRA Foundation grant. With the money awarded, we were able to purchase the materials to construct a backstop and handicap accessible shooting house for our range. Thanks to that funding and the dedication of our volunteers, physically challenged hunters now have the means to sight in their guns at our range, which also serves as a great place to educate our youth hunters.
But LRO is not just a place for hunting; it is also a place for healing. We show our hunters that DIS-abled does not mean UN-able. We have the means to transport them directly to hunting blinds and to make sure they can hunt safely and comfortably. If our veterans want to talk, we listen. If they just want to enjoy the great outdoors and camaraderie with fellow vets, we can make it happen.
So many veterans have expressed to us the relief and peace it gave them to be in a place where they could relax and be themselves. They can relate to the challenges fellow hunters face; they can share solutions, stories, and successes. Our founder, Robin Gassett, is a veteran himself and started LRO as a way to give back to his fellow vets. The love in his heart for the people we serve is unsurpassed.
LRO also seeks to make sure that the next generation will enjoy the great outdoors as much as we all do now. That is why we offer youth hunts. Not only do these children get to experience the wonders of hunting and nature, but they also receive instruction in gun safety, marksmanship, archery and other outdoor pursuits, all thanks to our volunteers and veterans who teach them.
My husband and I volunteer year-round at LRO. We build, clean, cook, guide—whatever is needed—because we believe in the great service LRO provides. We have made friends with other like-minded individuals, some of whom even come from other states to help in the endeavors to make LRO better every year.
The goal of all the projects undertaken at LRO is to enable us to better serve the children, disabled veterans and their families to whom we are dedicated. We appreciate the support of Friends of NRA, The NRA Foundation, and everyone who helps empower us to continue on that journey and in our mission to make a difference in our hunters’ lives by providing education and recovery in the outdoors.
Click here to learn more about The NRA Foundation grant program and apply for funding for your hunting or shooting sports organization. Find a Friends of NRA event near you at friendsofnra.org/Events and attend to help fundraise in support of these programs!