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January 4, 2008

Upstate mobility impaired deer hunts provide special days for hunters

Two special mobility impaired deer hunts were held in South Carolina’s Upstate during 2007, and more than 100 hunters took part in these hunts.

Applications for the 2008 hunts in the Upstate will be available in early summer, but those interested can contact the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Union office to get their name on the mailing list for an application. The office address is: Union DNR Office, 124 Wildlife Drive, Union, S C 29379, telephone (864) 427-5140. An application will also be available at the DNR Website.

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 be published in the DNR’s 2008-2009 "Rules & Regulations" booklet. Information is also available from the Columbia DNR office at (803) 734-3886.

Danny Cain of 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, Cain asked 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 mobility impaired sportsmen a unique hunting opportunity. At these special hunts, 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 two, two-day events each year in late October and early November during the peak of the rutting season.
           
The Upstate mobility impaired deer hunts are restricted to individuals who have very severe and permanent mobility impairments. Although many sportsmen have serious health problems that cause varying degrees of mobility impairment, often their cases are very difficult to measure or evaluate. However, in order to participate in the Upstate events, an applicant must meet one of three, very specific criteria. (1) Applicants must be permanently confined to a wheelchair; (2) permanently require some type of mechanical aid to assist them in walking; or (3) 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 the events. In some years, private funding has been available to assist with overnight lodging for those that need it. During 2007, two special hunts were held and40 hosts provided opportunities for 139 hunters in Cherokee, Laurens, Newberry, Spartanburg and Union counties. One hundred and five hunters were able to attend the hunts and they harvested 36 deer (17 bucks and 19 does).

All hunt participants and their assistants were invited to attend a barbecue lunch at either the Spartanburg Gun Club or Quaker Creek Farm at noon on Friday of the first hunt day before dispersing to their assigned hunt sites that afternoon. Many of the hunters like to gather early on Friday morning to just socialize and enjoy a relaxing time together. Some of the hunt sites 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.
The mobility impaired hunters receive significant benefits from these events. They certainly enjoy the outdoor recreational 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 co-sponsors of these events and assist in various ways. The South Carolina Wildlife Law Enforcement Officers Association has provided a handicapped accessible golf cart, special financial support and personnel assistance. South Carolina Disabled Sportsmen assists annually with compiling participant mailing lists. The Paralyzed Veterans of America donated a mechanical, hydraulic-lift (Huntmaster) deer stand, and this equipment is utilized at the Upstate hunts each year and also at other DNR co-sponsored mobility-impaired deer hunts around the state. Sue Smith recently donated a second Huntmaster deer stand, and it will also be available for use at various DNR co-sponsored mobility-impaired deer hunts around the state. The Carolina’s Fence Association has for several years donated materials to construct ground blinds from chain link fence panels. 

The Wounded Warrior Project became involved this year as a co-sponsor and scheduled the attendance of several servicemen who had been severely injured in combat within Iraq or Afghanistan. Sagan Blackwell with the Children of the American Revolution acquired donations to provide overnight lodging for all the "Wounded Warriors" attending the hunts. Betsy McKee with the Wounded Warrior Roundtable of Spartanburg provided fresh fruit and other gifts for all hunt participants attending the first hunt in late October. Outdoor activities such as hunting can provide immense physical and psychological benefits to injured service people as they transition back into civilian life as well as to other individuals who as a result of an illness or accident are forced to adjust to a different lifestyle that drastically restricts their mobility.

The Spartanburg Gun Club donated the use of its facility to host the noon lunch during the first event in late October and Quaker Creek Farm hosted the noon lunch during the second hunt in early November. Other co-sponsors include Georgia Pacific Corp., a large timber company who has helped to financially support the events for several years. Bryson Thomason, Dr. George Graham and Mr. and Mrs. Danny Hutchinson also made significant financial contributions. The DNR’s Take One Make One mentor program has provided financial support and assistance in various ways. The Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund has provided financial assistance and coordinated the handling of donations and finances.
           
Several very nice door prizes were given away by drawing to lucky participants attending the events. An anonymous donor provided a Stevens 7 mm-08 caliber deer rifle, Keith Comer donated a 50-caliber muzzleloader, Dr. James Jakubchak donated a Ruger 22 caliber rifle and Jeff Sprinkle of Sprinkle Prosthetics donated two $500 gift certificates to Dick’s Sporting Goods. Other individuals and businesses also donated various other smaller gifts that were awarded as door prizes.
           
Wayne High of Duncan took a lead role and was highly instrumental in further expanding the mobility-impaired events within Cherokee, Spartanburg and Union counties. He worked tirelessly to recruit additional hosts, solicit donations of materials and services, build and distribute ground blinds, initiate and schedule a second hunt and significantly expand outdoor recreational opportunities for mobility impaired hunters within this region.
           
A number of other volunteers provide annual assistance at these hunts and their help is absolutely essential to the success of the events. Every volunteer certainly finds their contribution very rewarding and some look forward to these events almost as much as the hunt participants. The list of individuals and groups who host mobility-impaired hunters on their properties during the Upstate events 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 accommodating mobility impaired deer hunters during the 2007 Upstate hunts included the following individuals and organizations:

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.


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