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2017 Heritage Hunt

2017 Hunt of a Lifetime

Dreams Come True at the Annual IHEA-USA Heritage Hunt 

By Steve Hall, TX Hunter Education Coordinator 


…it says in Hunter’s Handbook, published annually by Focus Group, Inc., and distributed to hunter education (safety) students throughout North America by program staffs and instructors, in just about every state and Canadian province, as well as in other countries.  

The “Heritage Hunt,” as it has come to be named, is sponsored by the International Hunter Education Association-USA (, an organization that represents all 50 state programs, and Focus Group, Inc. The lucky winners represent the nearly 55,000 instructors, most of whom are volunteers, and the 650,000+ hunter education students that are trained annually throughout North America. Brad Heidel, IHEA-USA Executive Director, continually reminds people that the goal of his organization is to support state fish and wildlife agencies and their hunter education programs, develop hunter education standards, and to promote the mission “to teach safe, responsible, knowledgeable, and involved hunting and shooting practices.” 

Over 27 million students have completed hunter education since the first mandatory program in New York in 1949. The historic program is considered a “rite of passage” for hunters, and has reduced hunting incidents by well over 2/3 since its inception—not to mention improving overall compliance to hunting regulations, and enhancing the behaviors and image of hunters and hunting. Heidel continued, “your hunter education certification has opened the door to a world of wonderful experiences outdoors with friends and family.” 

Students and instructors submit a FREE entry form (stitched within Hunter’s Handbook) or enter online at They answer a few survey questions about their hunting lifestyle and activities and request entry into the all-expense-paid Heritage Hunt drawing. 

“It’s a Dream Come True!”  

Hunter Education Instructor, Dorothy “Dotty” Pezzi, Pompano Beach, FL  

“I thought it was a very strange voice message,” said Dorothy “Dotty” Pezzi, 2017 hunter education instructor winner from Florida, “but I saved Brian’s message (Brian Thurston, Focus Group, Inc. president who started the Heritage Hunt) on my phone, because I still can’t believe it!” as she motioned with her phone to listen to his message, “it’s a dream come true!” Dotty teaches with her husband, John, near Fort Lauderdale at an indoor range. With permission from Focus Group, she donated her hunt to her teaching partner and paid her own expenses so she could “tag along” on the Dream Hunt. “He hasn’t got to enjoy such hunts as much as me, and he works hard, so I wanted him to be the Hunter!” 

“Watching the Kids Light Up!” Tim Hixon, Hixon Land & Cattle Ranch, Cotulla, TX 

The Hixon Land & Cattle Ranch near Cotulla, Texas, once again hosted the 2017 hunt, something the ranch owners, Tim and Karen Hixon, both former commissioners of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, strongly believe in. “I like watching the kids light up,” said Tim Hixon. Their son, ‘Timo’ Hixon, now four-time host of the Heritage Hunt, and Mrs. Hixon agreed. “We’ve enjoyed it and are happy to be involved in hosting such opportunities. Folks just don’t get enough of these types of experiences!” The Hixons also host many Wounded Warrior Hunts and their favorite, a program Mr. Hixon helped start in Texas, the Texas Youth Hunting Program ( “We’ve hosted lot of hunts over ten years, and hope to keep providing more opportunities for groups that promote safe hunting!” 

Mike Hehman, hunt manager, has worked for the Hixons for a decade. He takes real pride in knowing that he and his staff have significantly improved the quality of habitat and deer on the ranch. He addressed the hunters the Friday night before the first big hunt. “It is important to look at deer numbers, age, and genetics when managing the herd—along with continually improving the habitat through various practices.” He added, “I hope each of you have a great time this weekend, but know that you also are helping us with our management goals on the ranch!”  

Special thanks to the Hixon family—Tim, Karen, and Timo; ranch manager Mike Hehman; hunt guides Blake Martin, Eddie Price, Landon Gulick, Doss Summers, and Dale Herrington; Hixon ranch staff Gabe, Trey, Siboney, Andrew “A.J.,” and Biancha Chapa; Veronica Martin, Robert Vasquez, and Chef Bubba Laughinghouse; CarecoTV’s videographer, John Doolen; and TPWD’s hunter ed staff, Brock Minton.  

Thanks too, to the 2017 Heritage Hunt product sponsors including: Birchwood Casey (targets and accessories); Buck Knives (101 Hunter knives); Cabela’s (hunt clothing); CarecoTV (TV production); Federal Premium/Vista Outdoor (ammunition); Hunter’s Handbook (Heritage Hunt); LaCrosse (boots); Lansky (sharpening sets); Milwaukee Tool (heated jackets); Otis (hunting systems/firearm cleaning equipment); Vortex Optics (binoculars); YETI (tumblers); and EZ Gutter (gutting tool) 

Photo 1 - Group Photo.jpg

2017 Heritage Hunt Participants

(back row) Hixon ranch guides Landon Gulick, Brock Minton (TX Parks & Wildlife), Eddie Price, Mike Hehman (ranch manager), and Blake Martin join hunter education instructors and students/parents selected for the IHEA-USA Heritage Hunt

(front row/orange) Mike McDonald (WA), Dorothy Pezzi (FL), Mitchell and Blake Anderson (ID), and Michael and Paul Fraley (MI), John Pezzi (FL) (not pictured: Damion and Jimmy Byers, NC).

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Mitchell and Blake Anderson from Rigby, ID, were all smiles after Blake took his first buck. Blake said, “I was just hoping to be calm enough to shoot, but boy, was that exciting!” Mitchell chimed in, “I was watching the deer and ‘sheeblatt’—it went down instantly!”

Photo 2 - Paul and Michael Fraley.jpg

Paul and Michael Fraley from Houghton, MI, enjoyed the South Texas weather and were elated with Michael taking his first deer, a nice buck. Paul said, “Hunting in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan, is way different than what we have experienced here!” Michael added, “Yeah—I’m sure glad I was selected!”

Photo 4 - Michael McDonald Sighting In.jpg

Instructor Michael McDonald from Arlington, WA, practiced hard and brought his own rifle on the hunt. “Wanting to make sure I don’t miss,” he said.

Guide Landon Gulick, Bigfoot, TX, measures the antlers on Michael McDonald’s nice buck. Gulick took score, weight, and age data as part of the Hixon Ranch Wildlife Management Plan—to improve the health and quality of habitat and wildlife on the ranch, including trophy whitetails.

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The Pezzis, FL, and Fraleys, MI, introduce themselves to Timo Hixon (right), ranch owner, and Mike Hehman (left), ranch manager, as they arrive at the Hixon Ranch near Cotulla, Texas between San Antonio and Laredo in South Texas.

Photo 7  - Brock Minton.jpg

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s South Texas Hunter Education Specialist, Brock Minton, teaches shotgun skills on the Hixon’s sporting clays course between the morning and afternoon hunts as part of the Heritage Hunt.

Photo 6 - Dorothy (Dotty) and John Pezzi preparing for TV Interview.jpg

Dorothy ‘Dotty’ and John Pezzi, Pompano Beach, FL get ready for an interview with CarecoTV’s John Doolen. Dotty leads a health services team for the state’s health department, and John has worked over 20 years as a long hauler, transporting gasoline and oil. John did not take a deer, though he watched a nice buck three separate times. “He just did not present me a good shot, and it wasn’t to be!” Pezzi did take a coyote, and the couple saw bobcats, green jays, and a variety of wildlife in the South Texas brush country. “Everything that sticks, pricks, and bites you—huh?” echoed John, after hearing it from the host.