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Jeff Kolpack, Published July 18 2012

Wrestling dad will return to North Dakota to hunt pheasants

FARGO – A trip from Newport News, Va., to Fargo to watch his son wrestle in the USA Junior and Cadet national tournament turned into quite the hunting connection for Paul Starner. It was an example of being in the right place at the right time.

That hasn’t always been the case for the wounded Marine veteran, who lost his right leg in an explosion while serving in Afghanistan. He was in Scheels All Sports store in Fargo this week, admiring a couple of Elk that were mounted in the hunting department.

The man who shot them, Bill Kiefer, happened to be there. Starner went into the story how he will be going to Colorado to hunt Elk as part of the Wounded Warrior Project, the group that aids the recovery of veterans. And that’s when the idea hit Kiefer: this won’t be you’re only trip to North Dakota.

“I thought we could figure a way to get everybody to come back and pheasant hunt,” Kiefer said.

Kiefer is providing Starner, his father Stephen Starner, his son Hunter Starner and a coach in his son’s Virginia wrestling program, – Chuck Hudgins – transportation, lodging and food to hunt pheasants in both eastern and western North Dakota, most likely in November.

“I was just shocked,” Paul Starner said. “It shows there are still people out there who appreciate and understand what we do.”

Starner has been a Marine since 1993. He did tours in Iraq in 2004 and 2008 in addition to the Afghanistan tour in 2010. He endured injuries to shrapnel in Iraq during a fire fight, when a bullet hit a cement wall next to him.

His leg injury was the result of his vehicle driving over a roadside bomb. He’s still recovering with the latest surgery to fuse his left ankle. He walks with a prosthetic on his right leg.

“Trying to walk on a prosthetic leg isn’t easy, either,” he said.

But it hasn’t stopped him from hunting. The sport provides a nice diversion from the daily challenges of rehabilitation.

“It’s the one thing I’ve found that I can still do,” Starner said.

And thanks to Kiefer, he’ll be doing it in North Dakota.

“It’s kind of what Bill said to me: it was meant to be,” Starner said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia

Kolpack is the host of the WDAY Golf Show Saturdays from 8-9 a.m. on 970-AM.