Kirk Hendershott, an intern with the MDC, led about 14 participating veterans in computerized Laser Shot games Monday morning. Recreational therapist, Paula Wyckoff, said the games exercise the veteran's minds by triggering memories of outdoor sporting in their younger years. She also said the activity of aiming the computerized gun is good physical exercise because it forces them to use muscles that aren't worked often.
"They love it," Wyckoff said. "Now we're going to have to go out and buy an outdoor sports game to keep here."
DeeDee Dockins, an outdoor skills specialist with the MDC, coordinates outdoor sports related activities for residents at the Missouri Veteran's Home on a monthly basis. She said the sportsmen retain their passion for hunting and Missouri's outdoor resources even though they can no longer take their hunt outdoors.
"Just because your legs may not be able to take you out to the woods doesn't mean you are not a hunter anymore," Dockins said. She said the spirit of hunting was certainly alive in the room of veterans even though they were shooting mallards with a laser shotgun.
Wyckoff said one of the resident's favorite visits by Dockins was when they were treated to one of Dockin's own duck recipes. She said Dockin's visits regularly bring a welcome break in routine for the veterans.
According to Dockins, programs like this help to meet the MDC's mission to provide opportunity for all citizens to use, enjoy and learn about fish, forest and wildlife resources and are paid for with a portion of the 1/8 of 1% Conservation Sales Tax that supports the department. The MDC represents less than 1% of the total state budget, working to support Missouri's 1.1 million anglers, 608,000 hunters and 2.2 million wildlife watchers that continue to pass along the tradition of discovering nature.
"Each time I present a program to the veterans, I am amazed at how much I learn about our natural resources from these veterans who hunted 50 and 60 years ago," Dockins said.
For more information MDC programs contact the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center at 573-290-5218 or the Cape Girardeau MDC Regional Office at 573-290-5730.