PLEASANT RIDGE PLANTATION – The air seemed to get colder as the woods outside the camouflaged tent slowly brightened.

One bird called and another responded, as the forest, occupied by a Vietnam veteran, a volunteer hunting guide and a rifle, woke up.

Waking up. Rejuvenation. That may be what is happening in a free program at Pine Grove Lodge in Pleasant Ridge Plantation that brings injured veterans and survivors of natural disasters into the woods to hunt and fish.

The program “has gotten me out of myself,” whispered veteran Joe Baker of Winslow, as he sat inside the hunting blind at the edge of a field in Concord Township at 4 a.m. He spoke softly so he wouldn’t disturb the turkeys he hoped were perched on nearby tree limbs.

Doctors at Togus VA Medical Center in Augusta suggested Baker participate in outings like the one organized by Pine Grove Lodge, he said. They were concerned about him isolating.

Baker has post-traumatic stress disorder and in 1968 suffered a brain injury on a Navy destroyer off the coast of Vietnam when a man closed a hatch door on his head and knocked him to the deck below.

During his civilian career, he worked in the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.

With 24 years in the Navy and Air Force, plus a career in law enforcement, he has taken a while to learn how to relax and be around people again, he said.

Being in the woods and socializing with other veterans at the lodge is part of the long healing process.

“I love the peace and quiet,” he said. “As I learned how to just sit quiet and listen, I learned how alive the woods are.”

Several other veterans were also in the woods in separate areas surrounding Pleasant Ridge. As part of the program run by Bob and Andrea Howe, they woke up at 3 a.m. to don their camouflage, drink coffee and head out into the drizzle and dark to wait for the turkeys.

As an 18-year-old, Bob Howe took veterans he knew fishing for fun. And while he worked at Scott Paper in Winslow for 25 years, he also worked as a Maine Guide, running Lucky Day Guide Service. He said he doesn’t know exactly what pushed him to buy the lodge 13 years ago.

“I don’t know what made me do it. I just said, ‘I’m going to go hunting and fishing for a living,’ and that’s what I did,” he said. “I didn’t go to the service, but this is my part.”

Army veteran George Draper of Wayne was turkey hunting recently despite a life of constant pain. He said he jumped out of a helicopter at Fort Campbell, Ky., in 1982 only to get caught in the ropes. He then fell 30 to 40 feet to the ground.

Eight surgeries later, he has two 20-inch rods and 26 screws in his back, as well as two plates in his neck. He said he finds it hard to turn his head, and though he can walk, he can’t feel his legs.

“I see other vets doing it with worse conditions than me, so I thought I ought to give it a try,” he said about the program. “It’s kind of overwhelming to have something like this offered to you.”

“Being with nature is peaceful,” he said. “There’s so much around you, and so many people miss all that stuff. They don’t see it. They just get in a car and drive by it all.”

Not all veterans come to Pleasant Ridge just to be in the outdoors. David Nevedonsky of Winslow came for the opportunity to be with other veterans and socialize, he said. He doesn’t know why he’s still alive: In Vietnam in the early ’70s, he said, he was bayoneted in the stomach.

Arthur Plante of New Gloucester said he was medically discharged from the Navy in 1993 and has multiple sclerosis.

“It’s an awesome program,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to do things I wouldn’t be able to do.”

Among the people who volunteer their time to take the veterans hunting is David Giampetruzzi of China, a former head of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, and Joel Chapman of Portland, who retired from the Treasury Department in 2001.

Chapman, who was in the Air Force 11 years and the Army 16 years, said, “After having so much time in with the service and federal service, it’s nice to give things back.”

After about 2½ hours of waiting, no turkeys responded to the calls made by Guide Herb Hingley of Pleasant Ridge, who took Baker out to get a turkey.

Hingley said turkeys don’t travel in the rain because they can’t hear the approach of predators, which in dry weather would be stepping on leaves that crackle.

“There are two chances: slim and none,” Hingley said of bagging a turkey. “You’ve got to be patient for this game.”

As the day reached full light, it began to rain even harder. So Baker and Hingley climbed into Hingley’s red pickup and left the gated land called Owens Marsh Restoration Project.

It’s part of American Greenlands Restoration Inc., run by John Sferazo. He is replanting trees on about 1,000 acres in Concord to make the land available for veterans, first responders and disaster survivors to enjoy, according to Bob Howe.

“The fun is in the challenge,” Baker said as the truck traveled down the back roads of Concord and then Embden and Bingham. “That’s why they call it hunting and not shopping. You’re not going to get one every time.”

Hingley stopped the truck occasionally to call out for turkeys. None responded.

Hunting may seem at odds with what some people view as a peaceful activity, but not for Baker.

“I don’t hunt or shoot anything I’m not prepared to eat,” Baker said. “I hunt because it’s a family tradition. It’s a human tradition, especially up in New England and Maine.”