A Hunt with a Hero: Exotic Doves, Master Sgt. Shelby Hatch


Combat Medic Master Sergeant Shelby Hatch (above) was the head of a surgical team and morgue director. Her cool demeanor and contagious laugh belie her PTSD, triggered by the difficult things she witnessed during her 20 years of service. Since her retirement, Master Sgt. Shelby has found therapeutic relief by hunting. Sabine Sanchez of Wishes for Warriors, Matt Telveke of Tek Outdoors and I set out to give Master Sgt. Shelby her first bird hunting experience.

We decided on Eurasian collared doves. Despite the similarities between the mourning or turtle dove and the larger Eurasian collared dove, the hunting experience is quite different. A mourning dove’s flight pattern is more erratic and faster than the collared dove’s; making the latter bird an easier — if not easy — target.  In Texas, there’s no season for collared doves; they’re considered an exotic species.


Master Sgt. Shelby brought a TTAG-reviewed Yildiz SPZ ME to the hunt. It’s an affordable, lightweight 20-gauge over-and-under shotgun with a handsome walnut stock. As Sabine and I reconnected in the field (as women do), Master Sgt. Shelby was busy “working,” constantly scanning the skies for prey, shotgun at the ready. “I hold every weapon like I hold an M4,” she said calmly. “I’m programmed to do so.”

As time wore on, she refused a chair. “I prefer to stand. It keeps me alert.”


Don’t get me wrong. Master Sgt. Shelby maintained a perfect balance of work and fun. She was both prepared and sociable. Still, every now and then, she would go quiet and retreat into her thoughts.


Master Sgt. Shelby was in charge of collecting our wounded and deceased soldiers from the battlefield and patching them up or laying them to rest. No doubt she’d witnessed horrific bloodshed and tragedy. I asked her if hunting brought up any bad memories.  “Hunting is healing,” she answered, simply. “It’s peaceful and most of all quiet.”


The birds were good, the camaraderie better. Out of our high experienced hunting party, Master Sgt. Shelby shot the most doves. Proof that her military training and life experience give her the ability to excel at most anything she puts her mind to. Despite or because of the hardship in her past? I’m not sure that even matters.

NOTE: Previous versions of this post misstated Master Sgt. Shelby’s rank. We apologize for this mistake. We thank our readers for the correction and Master Sgt. Shelby for her service to our country.


  1. avatar Ralph says:

    Sergeant, not Sargent. It’s also customary to call Sergeant majors “Sergeant major,” not just Sergeant, who would be a non-com of lower rank than an E-9.

    Nevertheless, the article was good and respectful, and I enjoyed it.

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:


      1. avatar Chris says:

        USAF doesn’t have the Sergeant Major rank.

        1. avatar BDub says:

          Probably a Sr. Master/Chief Master. Shes got 20 years in the USAF.

        2. avatar Joe Taylor says:

          I can’t think of a war or military conflict in the last 100 years that was legal ..

    2. avatar mk10108 says:

      We can forgive the civilian, he knows not our customs nor privilege.

      1. avatar Bollocks Troy says:

        PTSD is your privilege, enjoy it. And kill some animals to ease the pain. And vote Trump. Trump the vote. Trumpets.

    3. avatar ORCON says:

      Sergeants Major is the correct plural. And if you would, please stop making us combat vets out to be some object of pity. This soldier had a tough time, sad story, some soldiers came home missing limbs and others came home in bags. Suck it up, drive on.

  2. avatar LarryinTX says:

    You go, girl! Best wishes, and thank you for your service.

  3. avatar Mrowen says:

    PTSD is an insidious opponent. It is good that Sergeant Major Hatch has found a creative way to cope. Happy hunting to her.

    1. avatar Tommy Hobbes says:

      Good article. Sergeant Major Hatch seems top notch. We all owe you Big Time. Glad the hunting helps.

    2. avatar Joe R. says:

      “PTSD is an insidious opponent.”

      imho – ptsd is just part-of-it, don’t let any a-hole, especially one that didn’t go, or someone making $$$ on it, or someone reporting on it as a means of working for the enemy [i.e., ] damaging recruiting, ruining current member’s morale, hampering military family life, adding to the complex burden of reliving deployment (however that happens to the individual), and (most importantly)

      But yes, hope the Sergeant Major had a great great hunt, and hope she gets another soon.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        Audie Murphy, one of the most decorated soldiers in American history, had PTSD after WW2.

        He was an almost fearless soldier, but war affects even the bravest of the brave.

      2. avatar Mrowen says:


        1. avatar Joe R. says:

          Joe-R-Nothing, it’s just me baby. You want choices now?

  4. avatar Bill from over the hill says:

    Good article.

    You sure that’s USAF? No such thing as sergeant major in the Air Force.

    1. avatar n64456 says:


      1. avatar jsallison says:

        An E-7 would be a Master Sergeant, E-8 a Senior Master Sergeant, E-9 a Chief Master Sergeant, iirc. Above these would be Awesome Master Sergeant and Bigly Master Sergeant.

        It’s too bad the Air Force dropped the blue BDU’s, I was yugely looking forward to greeting the local E-9 with a rousing ‘Morning Papa Smurf!’ I knew I could out run him, my knees were in much better shape than his.

        1. avatar troutbum5 says:

          The blue BDUs were resoundingly loathed and rejected by the rank and file members. So we got Army colors with an extra shade of blue-gray.

    2. avatar neiowa says:

      Correct. Airfarce has assorted “Master” Sgt.

      I’m still working thru how you compute – Airfarce, medic, combat, PTSD, female works. But what do I know, just a dumb ole grunt. The AF I knew was all about TDY to the “field” 9-5 and roughing it at the Airport Hilton.

      1. avatar Joe R. says:

        Know a bunch of SEABEES that were in GW1 thinking they’d be building or demo-ing stuff for the Marines who got to do some clean-up on the ‘Highway To Hell’ in Iraq. They would tell you that nothing that they had to clean up looked, smelt, or felt like a human being but they catalogued a thousand or so ash-pots labled KIA, and that was harder than making live ones dead in OEF. So. . .

        1. avatar Joe R. says:

          pardonnez “Highway of Death” [“Road to Hell” was what they were told NOT to call it (likely for fear of giving someone PTSD)]>

      2. avatar John says:

        Just goes to show you how far (into the field) the Air FORCE has come. There’s more to the USAF than flyers (Airport Hilton reference). Too many missions for the USA to fill, so they task the USAF in lieu of missions. Not sure if MSgt Hatch’s mission was one of these, but (one of) mine was.

        1. avatar Joe R. says:

          I’m pretty sure the U.S. AIR FORCE fielded convoy security team to either Iraq, or Afghanistan (ESFS ???). That stuff was just “pushing trucks down the road” until you encounter an I.E.D. find/hit, and secondary attack. BTW, No honors for I.E.D. hits, you shoulda seen that before it got detonated.

          AND the USAF contributed their fair-share to the EOD community.

        2. avatar John says:

          @JoeR – Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron – yes and no – that’s just the name of the squadron when they deploy- SF squadrons are tasked with a multitude of different duties when they deploy – some of them do convoys, policing duties (on and off base), base defense, etc…

    3. avatar FedUp says:

      Like they said, Liberte, the Sarge is a Master.


  5. avatar MSgtB says:

    Master Sergeant Hatch. E-7.
    How did y’all spend time together, do a bit on her, and get that so wrong? Might as well call her a ” corpse ” man, like our ignorant Prez.

  6. avatar Mrowen says:

    Joe R—-where, when and with what branch did you serve. Just curious.

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      U.S.N,(multiple periods) OEF Iraq ’06 -’07, but I ain’t looking for a date or nuthin.

      NOT Curious, but, did you serve, or just keeping score?

      Hopefully military history is all you’re curious about Mr. Nosey. Where did you pull Hatch’s info from? And, cut it out, hopefully she was vetted by the people who chose to honor her.

      My comment before (as clarification to others, not ’cause of a jedi mind-trick or something [hopefully]), is that PTSD should be an expected part of service (deployed or not, some bubbas got bombed in an Iraqi chow hall who never made it off base, some people got attacked in recruiting stations and various military facilities who hadn’t even seen OCONUS orders). Just [again imho] never, never, never, let anyone use PTSD as a means of taxing you, the U.S. Military, or the U.S. Thank them for their service, be patient, help them if/wehn they need it, but don’t let anyone call them broken, don’t let anyone use it as a means of degrading the U.S. Military’s future fighting-spirit, or tarnish the amazing things they/we have all done.

      1. avatar Mrowen says:

        5th bn/7th cavalry 1st Cavalry Division Airmobile. An Lo valley, Kontum, Dak To, Bong Son, Hue, A Shau valley, Tet

        1. avatar Joe R. says:

          4-6 yrs? 5 years straight?

  7. avatar Mrowen says:

    Master Sgt Shelby Hatch
    20 years service
    40 years old
    injury/disability PTSD/TBI
    According to U.S. Airforce

  8. avatar Mr. AR says:

    Ladies and Over/Unders, nuff said.

  9. avatar LHW says:

    Good article.

  10. avatar jwm says:

    Those eurasian collared doves are considered an invasive species here in CA and are legal to shoot 365 days a year with no limit.

    They’re bigger than the regulated doves and pretty easy to spot. All doves are a hoot to shoot.

  11. avatar Darkwing says:

    Big frelling deal, she was in the military 20 years, put on medical pay (non taxable) for the rest of her life. She took part in illegal wars. Over glorified.

    1. avatar Lance says:

      Always one asshole in the bunch, you win that prize hands down.

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