Clay shoot helps support veteran outreach program

Posted on February 14, 2019 by Staff reports

 A sporting clay shoot is scheduled for March 9 at the Santa Rosa Shooting Center north of Pace to help raise money for activities on Blackwater River State Forest that help veterans through Operation Outdoor Freedom. The event is open to the public and the cost is $75 per shooter whether solo or with teams and registration can be taken up to 10 a.m. the day of the event. Businesses also can show their support through sponsorships for as little as $50 and as much as $1,000. For more information, contact Joe Zwierzchowski at or call (850) 206-2675.

Operation Outdoor Freedom is an endeavor of the Florida Forest Service that provides recreational opportunities to wounded veterans. Designated state and agricultural lands throughout Florida grant these veterans unique opportunities for recreation and rehabilitation. Participation requires a service-connected disability rating of 30% or greater from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs or receipt of a Purple Heart. Operation Outdoor Freedom hosts events throughout the state of Florida that have included lobster trips in the Keys, inshore fishing in Cedar Key and turkey, deer and wild hog hunts.

While this is a state sanctioned and supported outreach program, there is no state budget money allotted for these activities and each area must generate funding on their own. In six years doing these events, the Blackwater District has hosted almost 100 veterans in events ranging from whitetail deer hunts, clay shoots to fishing trips in the Gulf of Mexico. Operation Outdoor Freedom falls under Friends of the Florida State Forests, a registered 501(c)(3) and donations are tax deductible. All money raised locally goes to fund local projects and events within the three-county area (Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties) that are covered by the Blackwater Forestry Center.

The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at