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#07-14 January 15, 2007

Upstate mobility impaired deer hunts provide special days for hunters

Mr. Danny Cain from Waterloo fell from a tree stand while deer hunting in 1985, and broke his back. He has been in a wheelchair permanently since that time, but his interest and love for deer hunting has remained strong.

Sometimes because of an illness or accident, sportsmen who enjoy hunting can unexpectedly find themselves unable to deer hunt again, without significant assistance. In 1995, Mr. Cain asked the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to consider providing a special deer hunting opportunity for mobility-impaired individuals within the Upstate.

As a result, a cooperative venture was formed among various Upstate private landowners, hunting clubs, sportsmen’s preserves, industrial timber companies and the DNR to allow this group of disadvantaged sportsmen a unique hunting opportunity. At this special hunt, participants are able to experience the challenges, enjoyment and thrills associated with hunting white-tailed deer at some of the most well-managed and exclusive private hunting properties in the Upstate. The DNR has developed cooperative arrangements with a number of individuals and groups and works closely with them to co-sponsor a two-day event each year in early November during the peak of the rutting season.

Applications for the 2007 mobility impaired hunts in the Upstate will be available in mid-March and interested persons can contact the Union DNR Office at 124 Wildlife Drive, Union, S C 29379, or call (864) 427-5140 or download an application from the DNR Web site at www.dnr.sc.gov. Information about becoming a host site is also available from the Union DNR Office. Dates for all DNR co-sponsored special hunts around the state will also be published in the DNR’s 2007-2008 “Rules & Regulations” booklet and information will also be available from the DNR main office at PO Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202, or call (803) 734-3886.
           
The Upstate mobility impaired deer hunt is restricted to individuals who have very severe and permanent mobility impairments. Many sportsmen have serious health problems that cause varying degrees of mobility impairment, but always some of these cases are very difficult to measure or evaluate. However, in order to participate in the Upstate event, an applicant must meet one of three, very specific criteria. Applicants must be permanently confined to a wheelchair, permanently require some type of mechanical aid to assist them in walking or have had a single or double leg amputation. Each participant can bring someone to assist him or her in a non-hunting capacity and all hunting is conducted from ground blinds.

Hunters must have a valid hunting license but the DNR offers a free disability-hunting license to resident sportsmen who are permanently and totally disabled. There is no application fee or any other costs to participate in this event. In the last several years, private funding has even been available to assist with overnight lodging for those that need it. In 2006, 21 host sites provided opportunities for 71 hunters in Laurens, Newberry, Spartanburg and Union counties. Fifty-six hunters were able to attend this year, and they harvested 15 deer.
           
All hunt participants are invited to attend a barbecue lunch at Quaker Creek Farm at noon on Friday of the first hunt day before dispersing to their assigned hunt sites in the afternoon.  Any of the hunters gather early on Friday morning to just socialize and enjoy a relaxing time together. Some of the hunt sites are able to provide overnight accommodations, and the hunters assigned there have the opportunity to share their afternoon hunt stories during supper and before bedtime. Many of the participants hunt again on Saturday morning. On Saturday afternoon, participants were provided an opportunity to shoot skeet at the Spartanburg Gun Club.
           
The mobility-impaired hunters receive significant benefits from this event. They certainly enjoy the opportunity, hunting experience, variety of activities, good meals and the fellowship among old friends and new acquaintances. Many particularly benefit from the opportunity to compare notes with each other on the best or latest innovations, gadgets and customized equipment that may make it easier for them to hunt or help them to better adapt to their disabilities.
           
A number of organizations are also co-sponsoring this event and have assisted in various ways. The South Carolina Wildlife Law Enforcement Officers Association has provided special financial support, a handicapped-accessible golf cart and personnel assistance. South Carolina Disabled Sportsmen assists annually with compiling participant mailing lists. The Paralyzed Veterans of America donated a mechanical, hydraulic-lift deer stand and this equipment is utilized at the Upstate hunt each year and also at other DNR co-sponsored mobility-impaired deer hunts around the state. The Carolina’s Fence Association donated materials to construct six ground blinds from chain link fence panels. An anonymous donor has provided a deer rifle to be given away to one lucky hunter each year during the past several years.

Other co-sponsors include Georgia Pacific Corp., a large forest products company, which has also assisted by financially supporting the event. The DNR’s Take One Make One program has provided financial support and assistance in various ways. The Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund has also provided financial assistance and has coordinated the handling of donations and finances.
           
Also, there are a tremendous number of volunteers whose annual assistance at this event is absolutely vital to its success. Every volunteer certainly finds their contribution very rewarding and some look forward to this event almost as much as the hunt participants. The list of individuals and groups that host mobility impaired hunters on their properties during the Upstate event increases annually. These generous individuals are providing a very unique and special opportunity and the hunt participants and their families certainly recognize it and genuinely appreciate it.  The list of hosts at the present time includes the following individuals and organizations:


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