Not just a hobby; a lifestyle
By Senior Airman Shawn Nickel, 9th RW Public Affairs
/ Published March 13, 2012
BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., -- "If it walks, crawls, swims, or flies, it dies!" reads the bug guard attached to the front of Master Sgt. Chad Hepner's muddy truck.
This saying is what the 9th Medical Group first sergeant tries his best to live by. He hunts so much that his family hasn't bought a cut of meat from a grocery store in 19 years.
"Hunting for me isn't just a hobby, it's a lifestyle," he said. "It keeps me grounded, is a stress reliever and is a way for me to put good grub on the table."
Fellow Airmen who know Hepner will often refer to him as Madman. This stems from his passion for being a sportsman and the intensity in which he takes it to.
"I've known Madman for two years and have fished or hunted with him more than 100 times," said fellow first sergeant and friend, Master Sgt. Nathan Schmidt, 9th Security Forces Squadron. "I have never met any person who is into hunting as he is."
Although bow hunting is Hepner's preferred method of take, the Winchester, Va., native logged his most epic hunt on a recent trip with his rifle to Alaska.
After days of hard hunting in steep country, a grizzly bear charged Hepner from a short distance. With little time to evade the attack Madman made an instinctual move. Being the marksman he is, one shot directly in the eye brought down the 600 pound beast.
"The challenge of matching wits with these animals mixed with the thrill of the hunt is what really drives me to continue at such a pace," he said.
If duty allows, Hepner heads out into the field at least twice every week in hopes of bringing fare to his families table. And if the season or time doesn't permit a hunt, the Madman skims his camouflage boat onto a lake, river or stream to fish.
"I would say I enjoy fishing almost as much as hunting," he said. "Watching that rod tip drop or seeing a fish hit top water gets your adrenalin going almost as much as taking game."
Although hunting can be an individual activity, Hepner said he prefers to take along a fellow Airmen or someone who has never experienced the thrill of the hunt. He tries to bolster the sportsman circle by introducing three or four new people to the sport each year.
"The only way for a sport to continue is to keep teaching it to a new generation of people," he said. "Hunting bolsters camaraderie and is a great way to unwind each week after the challenges of work."
However, Hepner often mixes his Air Force life with his hunting obsession. He has served as a volunteer base game warden at Eielson, Shaw and Beale Air Force Bases for 11 years during his career.
"Being blessed with so much opportunity on base has been exceptional," he said. "Protecting the resources we have and introducing them to the new breed of hunters at the same time is extremely rewarding."