Although Jackson McBride is an avid hunter, the Covington High School junior had never designed a hunting blind.
“It’s a good project to learn how to work with our hands,” McBride says.
In 2020, the Covington FFA chapter in Covington, Tenn., partnered with Operation Open Season, a nonprofit organization that supports hands-on construction projects in high schools while providing opportunities for wounded veterans to participate in hunting and fishing trips. Their goal: Design and build handicap-accessible hunting blinds for wounded veterans.
“Most deer stands are 30 feet tall, and hunters need to be mobile and agile to get into them,” explains Jerry Johnson, agricultural education instructor and Covington FFA advisor.
FFA members had to come up with the design and then build the blind. It took several attempts to hit the target.
“We all had to come together and agree on one idea,” McBride says. “That might have been the hardest part.”
With the specs nailed down, students used their agricultural mechanic skills to transform their design into a functional hunting blind. Covington FFA was awarded $3,900 through the Grants for Growing program to purchase a welding machine so students could learn metal inert gas (MIG) welding and construct the hunting blinds from metal.
“I like to get [students] into the shop and have them learn by doing because that gets them fired up,” Johnson says.
Several local farmers have offered their land for upcoming hunting trips. Johnson hopes to have two blinds set up this spring so deer get used to them by the time deer season opens in November.
Johnson admits there is a lot of work to do before then, but he feels confident that FFA members are up to the task — and veterans are already looking forward to testing the blinds this fall.
“[The veterans] are so excited that FFA wants to do something like this for them,” Johnson says. McBride believes the effort will be worthwhile when the blinds are set up and wounded veterans can participate in their first hunts in Tipton County, Tennessee.
“It’s a good cause,” McBride says. “It feels good to be giving back to people who’ve given so much to us.”
Learn more about Grants for Growing at FFA.org/Gr