Combat Medic Master Sergeant Shelby Hatch (above) was the head of a surgical team and morgue director. Her cool demeanor and contagious laugh belie her PTSD, triggered by the difficult things she witnessed during her 20 years of service. Since her retirement, Master Sgt. Shelby has found therapeutic relief by hunting. Sabine Sanchez of Wishes for Warriors, Matt Telveke of Tek Outdoors and I set out to give Master Sgt. Shelby her first bird hunting experience.
We decided on Eurasian collared doves. Despite the similarities between the mourning or turtle dove and the larger Eurasian collared dove, the hunting experience is quite different. A mourning dove’s flight pattern is more erratic and faster than the collared dove’s; making the latter bird an easier — if not easy — target. In Texas, there’s no season for collared doves; they’re considered an exotic species.
Master Sgt. Shelby brought a TTAG-reviewed Yildiz SPZ ME to the hunt. It’s an affordable, lightweight 20-gauge over-and-under shotgun with a handsome walnut stock. As Sabine and I reconnected in the field (as women do), Master Sgt. Shelby was busy “working,” constantly scanning the skies for prey, shotgun at the ready. “I hold every weapon like I hold an M4,” she said calmly. “I’m programmed to do so.”
As time wore on, she refused a chair. “I prefer to stand. It keeps me alert.”
Don’t get me wrong. Master Sgt. Shelby maintained a perfect balance of work and fun. She was both prepared and sociable. Still, every now and then, she would go quiet and retreat into her thoughts.
Master Sgt. Shelby was in charge of collecting our wounded and deceased soldiers from the battlefield and patching them up or laying them to rest. No doubt she’d witnessed horrific bloodshed and tragedy. I asked her if hunting brought up any bad memories. “Hunting is healing,” she answered, simply. “It’s peaceful and most of all quiet.”
The birds were good, the camaraderie better. Out of our high experienced hunting party, Master Sgt. Shelby shot the most doves. Proof that her military training and life experience give her the ability to excel at most anything she puts her mind to. Despite or because of the hardship in her past? I’m not sure that even matters.