Three hunts of a lifetime came true in September and October for sisters Bobbi Joe, Destanie and Serenity Finney of Waterville, Iowa.
The hunts were arranged by the United Special Sportsman’s Alliance (USSA), which helps children, adults and veterans with disabilities achieve their outdoor dreams, whether those dreams involve hunting, fishing or other outdoor wishes.
“It was very successful. Bless those people (USSA),” said the grandmother of the Finney sisters, Brenda Finney, of Prairie du Chien. “It was awesome.”
The lead-off huntress was Bobbi Joe, 12, who was able to bag a beast of a black bear during a USSA hunt in northwest Wisconsin. Bobbi Joe’s bear tipped the scales at a whopping 262 pounds field dressed, and was probably more than 300 pounds when alive.
“They (USSA) were wonderful,” said Bobbi Joe’s grandfather, Joe Finney, who accompanied all three granddaughters on their hunts.
“I got to see their eyes when they shot, and I got a nice feeling,” said Joe. “It was like when I first began hunting. It made my adrenaline pump, just like it was my first hunt.”
Joe said he had never hunted bear in his life, but the USSA guides and volunteers got him and Bobbi Joe where they needed to be.
“They really go out of their way to be successful,” said Joe.
Next up was 10-year-old Destanie, who attended a USSA group deer hunt near Bancroft, Wis. Hunting must run in the family, because she was able to shoot a nice doe under the guidance and watchful eye of grandpa Joe.
The last granddaughter to take the field was 13-year-old Serenity, who traveled to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, in hopes of harvesting a deer for her family during a hunt. True to form, her aim was right on target, and another nice deer was bound for the family freezer. Joe noted that Serenity used a 50 caliber black powder rifle with a scope to get her nubbin buck. Along with USSA, Joe said Whitetails Unlimited also helped with the hunt.
“They are all three great shots,” said Joe. “I couldn’t be prouder.”
Joe said he and his wife, Brenda, couldn’t be happier with the USSA staff and volunteers.
“It’s just phenomenal all that they do for these kids and adults,” said Joe. “They arrange and help with moose hunts, bear, deer, elk, wild turkey, ocean fishing and many other kinds of hunting, fishing and outdoor activities. Oh, Lordy, the donations and volunteers are great. People donate their bear licenses. Thank God they’re (USSA) there.” Joe also said there are numerous businesses and organizations that sponsor USSA.
“It’s just a wonderful thing that the USSA does,” continued Joe. “The people are fantastic with these kids.”
The mother of the three sisters, Mariah, was also quite pleased with the USSA hunts.
“They were overwhelmed with excitement,” said Mariah about her daughters. “It’s just a wonderful program, USSA.”
“I like deer hunting,” said Serenity. “I missed the first one, but I got the second one. It was overwhelming.”
“I was very excited, it was my first bear hunt,” said Bobbi Joe. “I enjoyed it.”
“I actually liked it,” said Destanie about her deer hunt. “It kind of scared me when I shot, but it was good. I would like to go on another one.”
Brigid O’Donoghue, COB, CEO and founder of USSA, said the three sisters’ hunts actually had their beginnings several years ago when the Big River Long Rifles of Prairie du Chien received a call from the Pittsville, Wis. based USSA requesting the Long Rifles attend USSA’s Summer Fest event, which provides a wide variety of outdoor experiences for critically-ill and disabled kids and at-risk youth as well. Providing a fun, yet great educational experience for all is a specialty of Prairie Villa Rendezvous volunteers such as the Long Rifles, explained O’Donoghue.
“It is said, we live in a small world, and we all are affected by everything that happens in it,” said O’Donoghue. She noted that Prairie du Chien residents, Joe and Brenda Finney, are members of the Big River Long Rifles and have been exhibiting yearly for the Prairie Villa Rendezvous on St. Feriole Island.
O’Donoghue, a former Prairie du Chien resident, said that as the Summer Fest event wound down, she talked to Joe and Brenda about the possibility of granting their grandchildren a USSA dream wish. Soon afterward, O’Donoghue was able to line up dream hunts for the three very special granddaughters.
USSA is the nation’s largest outdoor wish-granting charity. For more information about USSA, interested persons can visit www.childswish.org.
O’Donoghue also notes that in March of 2018, “Brittany’s Law” was passed bipartisanly and unanimously in Wisconsin, allowing non-profit organizations access to hunting tags and fishing licenses at no cost as long as they are used by individuals that are determined to be terminally ill by their physician. O’Donoghue said she conceived of the law as a great way to promote diversity and inclusion for all those wishing to participate in an outdoor wish of their dreams.
USSA used the law for the first time for Larry Hannum, a dairy farmer from Marshfield, Wis., who is battling cancer. His dream came true when he harvested his trophy black bear in September.
“It is indeed a small world after all, and when the good people from Prairie du Chien work together for a common cause and generosity, our town, our state and all those we touch will have a better quality of life,” said O’Donoghue.