Shortly before sunrise, the veterans received their instructions and marched into the darkness. Each man had a job. Some wore headlamps as they planted hundreds of decoys at precise intervals across the wet, patchy field near Easton, Md. Others hauled brush through the cold air to camouflage their post. Then they sat shoulder-to-shoulder on a long plank, loaded their guns, and waited in silence for the snow geese to appear.
Though seven men sat in the blind on that February morning, the hunting trip was really for just three of them: combat-wounded veterans invited by Freedom Hunters, one of dozens of non-profit groups across the U.S. who believe that hunting can be therapeutic for returning troops. Organizations like Wounded Warrior Outdoors in Florida and Hunters Helping Heroes in New Jersey organize donations of equipment and guides, trumpeting the benefits of getting veterans outdoors for distracting adventures. Some outfits say outright that their work will aid in “physical and emotional healing.”