USA’s WV Dinner Proves You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down
A hunting accident changed 19-year-old Hattie Callison’s life. That doesn’t stop her from hunting or supporting the things she loves the most.
by PJ DelHomme
Two years ago, Hattie Callison was on her first bowhunt near her home in West Virginia. At 19, she was an experienced hunter, having taken deer with a rifle, plus turkey and bear. On October 20, a four-point buck wandered past her ground blind, and she released her arrow. Little did she know that her life would change forever.
She hit the deer, and it ran off. While tracking it, an ash tree broke off and crushed Hattie. Her friends Josh and Levi heard the tree snap and fall. When they found her, Hattie was pinned underneath.
It took rescue personnel five hours to reach and stabilize her enough for transport. Hattie was taken to the local hospital and then to Roanoke Memorial. She suffered head trauma, back and spinal injuries, and a compound leg fracture. To make matters worse, Covid-19 was surging, and only one person could be in the hospital at Hattie’s side.
Less than one month after the accident, Hattie started rehab at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Seven months later, she returned home. While the injuries she sustained in the accident now require the use of a wheelchair for mobility, that hasn’t stopped her from hunting and fishing.
To Hattie’s surprise, a week after she returned home, a Trackchair was delivered to her front door. Trackchairs, the ATVs of wheelchairs, are outfitted with tracks—like a tank. Hattie says she still doesn’t know who sent it. The chair came complete with a gun rest and fishing rod holder. In November 2021, a little more than a year after her accident, she used the new setup to go hunting again and kill a deer. The accident hasn’t stopped her from supporting conservation, especially at the West Virginia AFL-CIO Conservation Dinner.
A Conservation Family
Hattie and her family have been stalwart supporters of unions and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) annual conservation dinner in Charleston, West Virginia, since it began eight years ago. Hattie’s mom, Pamela, is vice-president of Workers United Local 863 and says the events are a great way to get involved and promote important causes. At the 8th Annual West Virginia AFL-CIO Conservation Dinner this past August, Hattie had a bit of a winning streak.
“She just cleaned up,” says USA Event Coordinator Eric Bakken. “It was one thing after another.”
Hattie started her winning streak with the table gun, a Savage Axis 6.5 Creedmoor rifle. Then there was the turkey pluck; Hattie plucked the winning ticket from a turkey decoy and won another rifle. Then she won the “pick of the litter” where she could pick anything from the live auction. She chose a Milwaukee tool set for her dad.
“In that part of the room, she was the belle of the ball,” Bakken says. “Everyone was just super happy for her, and she was smiling ear to ear.”
Hattie wasn’t done. Before it was over, she won yet another raffle. This time it was a .22 pistol.
“The guy that called my ticket wanted to know if there were any casinos around, so we could go,” Hattie says.
This particular dinner is special because it has a great mix of trades, says Bakken. “Builders, miners, teachers—there’s a great representation of unions.”
After expenses, half of the money raised at USA conservation dinners goes into a community fund for local conservation projects while the other half funds USA operation costs and supports its mission to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage for future generations. In the past, funds from this dinner were used to restore a shooting range at West Virginia’s Pleasant Creek Wildlife Management Area. But another aspect of these dinners doesn’t make it to a spreadsheet.
“Hattie has become a fixture at this dinner,” says Bakken. “People would notice if she wasn’t there. I think when they’re around their union brothers and sisters, the support means a lot.”
When she’s not busy winning a trunk full of prizes, Hattie attends physical therapy twice a week and plays with her three dogs. She plans to get out for whitetails this fall and may even squeeze in some squirrel hunting. “Hunting,” Pamela says, “is a way of life for us.” And Hattie is living proof of that.