Friends of Florida State Forests- Operation Outdoor Freedom in the Goethe

Supported by the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and led by the Florida Forest Service, Operation Outdoor Freedom provides recreational and rehabilitative opportunities to wounded veterans on state forests, agricultural lands, and private lands throughout Florida at no cost. Since its inception in 2009, Operation Outdoor Freedom has hosted more than 500 events and served approximately 4,100 wounded veterans.

The Forest Service is working to develop a Veteran Bunk House in the Goethe State Forest, in Levy County to support ongoing Operation Outdoor Freedom activities in Levy County. This dormitory would provide 10 beds and bathrooms for disabled veterans to utilize during hunting, fishing, and other recreational opportunities. A total heated space of 1,000sqft and an attached porch of 500sqft.

The Levy County chapter of Operation Outdoor Freedom currently plans six trips per year. They are usually three or four days long and range between three and six veterans per trip. Veterans are provided accommodations with catered meals. Hunting and fishing trips are all guided, and each participant is matched up with a guide. Additional trips are being planned to incorporate outdoor activities such as paddling tours, birding, hiking, and horseback riding.

Below are examples of two events hosted recently:
Shell Mound Airboat Trip: Five Veterans are matched up to one captain and one guide per boat. The trip is usually four days/three nights with two full days of fishing with locals that have fished Shell Mound for decades. Food and lodging are provided for the duration of the stay. Guides will clean the day’s catch and nobody leaves empty-handed.

Goethe Hog Hunt: This all-inclusive hunt pairs each veteran with a local guide. Sites on the Sportsman’s Tract of Goethe State Forest are scouted and baited months in advance to create a more plentiful harvest opportunity. If a participant is successful guides will process the hog on behalf of the veteran to maximize hunt time and opportunities.

Big Lick Gives donated to the Friends of Florida State Forests in support of Operation Outdoor Freedom Veteran Bunk House project in the Goethe State Forest in the name of Black Prong Equestrian Village in June of 2022.

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