On Saturday, Feb. 13, the San Jacinto Area Wildlife Area (SJWA) in Nuevo, Calif., honored the veterans and active duty personnel of the United States armed forces with its first Veterans and Active Military Waterfowl Days.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife dedicated this event to take place statewide on the second weekend of February, in its most popular waterfowl hunting areas.

Tom Trakes, the supervisor at the SJWA, and his crew welcomed the hunters early in the morning with a continental breakfast before they got into their hunting blinds to start the day.

Showing respect for America’s armed forces, local hunter Robert Hartman provided a luncheon of barbecued tri-tip, baked beans, potato salad, drinks and dessert for all the veterans and active personnel that attended.

“I told Tom [Trakes] that a barbecue would be really nice to say thanks the veterans,” said Hartman.

“This was to let them know that there are people out here that still care, honor and respect them.

“My son, Anthony, is in the U.S. Coast Guard, and this hunt is to honor him and all the veteran hunters.

Hartman’s son, who has been serving for five and a half years, is also an avid hunter.

Hartman was assisted by his daughter Leianna and his neighbor Frankie Aguilar.

Leianna is also a hunter. She hunted on Feb. 6, during the Junior Waterfowl hunt for children and teenagers.

“When I told my friend Frankie about what we were going to do, he wanted to jump in and help. I appreciate him coming out with us today.”

“It was a really good day. We had an awesome time cooking for those that serve and have served our country.

“San Jacinto is a great place to hunt, and everyone loves to hunt here.”

Trakes was appreciative of Robert’s efforts for the veterans.

“We are really appreciated Robert, his daughter, and Frankie for stepping up and helping out our vets,” said Trakes.

“Robert brought his barbecue and made some delicious tri-tip sandwiches for the guys,” said Trakes.

“The hunters had plenty of food after a long morning of hunting.

“A lot of them will go back out to finish the day.”

“This event is amazing,” said Peter Frasca, a hunter from Chino Hills.

“Just being able to get all of these guys out here who have served and are currently serving and to give them the opportunity to hunt and have fun is remarkable.

Frasca was appreciative of the fact that there was a day set aside for veterans to enjoy a day of hunting without worrying if they would secure a blind or if they would have to wait their turn to hunt.

“This is definitely a great event,” said Trasca.

“Everyone that showed up was able to get in and hunt. We didn’t have to wait in the sweat line.

“I believe this special day should continue for the future so that other veterans can come out and enjoy their day,” said Trasca.

Trasca enjoyed the lunch that was served.

“The food was great, and we really appreciate them bringing all the food and dessert,” said Trasca.

Trasca harvested his limit of seven birds; one gadwall, one northern shoveler, three green-winged teal and two cinnamon teal.

Aaron Picard, an active U.S. marine, came out to enjoy the festivities at San Jacinto.

“I appreciate all the things that Tom and the guys have done for us,” said Picard.

“This just shows what a good community that we have to support the hunting community.

“It’s good to be out here with all these people, considering we’ve all been in our homes for so long with the current pandemic.”

Picard went home with a cinnamon teal and a ruddy duck.

By the end of the day, 147 birds were harvested by 41 hunters, the most common types being gadwalls, cinnamon teal and green-winged teal.

While SJWA held its hunt on Saturday only, other hunting areas throughout the state held their hunts on Saturday and Sunday.

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