If you measure the success of a disability deer hunt by the number of happy faces that came back to the deer camp at dark, then this year's hunt was an overwhelming success. If you measure a successful hunt by the number of deer twenty-six guys in wheelchairs were able to put on the brag pole then you'd have to say the deer won yesterday. Only two were harvested. The spouses of other hunters and I was at the deer camp waiting for our guys to come back with their guides and a seasoned hunter/volunteer told us that it was just too warm and windy for the deer to be cooperative.
Unfavorable weather or not, Don and his two guides saw a total of twenty deer and Don had the opportunity to draw on five but he didn't take the shots. Knowing Don as well as I do, he wouldn't shoot if he didn't think he had a clean and accurate shot which, of course, is true of all serious sportsmen.
From the stories Don's guides came back with you could tell they all had a genuinely good time. At one point, one of the guides said, they were laughing so hard he nearly pee his pants and they were laughing all day long. Our great-nephew was one of the guides and he said Don had them working every minute: jacket on, jacket off, snacks, water, urinal bottle, coffee, more snacks, gloves on, gloves off and then the constant game of twenty-one questions you need to play with someone who has a language disorder. "Aunt Jean," he said, "I don't know how you do this every day." They took lots of digital photos so I'm hoping to share some later when he sends me copies. The one posted with this entry was taken as we were waiting for Don's ride to pick him up before the hunt. Now there is a Christmas morning kind of face, don't you think?
The deer camp, this year, actually had the feel of a real deer camp---duh, it was real. What I mean is last year it was inside the sportsmen club but it was wall-to-wall wheelchairs and quite a comical thing to hear and watch when one of the guys near the back wall needed to go to the bathroom which was at the other end of the building. This year the Chapter of the Wild Turkey Federation who sponsored this event had pitched two large, old Army surplus tents. Nothing smells like old canvas. When I was a kid we spent summers on a lake and we kept a surplus tent pitched near a stream by the woods where all the lake kids played cowboy and Indians. Walking through those tents yesterday sure put me in a great mood. But it was such a warm night for Michigan that very few people hung out inside the canvas.
The deer camp also had a bonfire big enough for 12-14 people to sit around with others standing or sitting in a second tier behind them. The grills that they cooked dinner on were not far away. The local VFW and another organization, whose name escapes me, cooked for the hunters and the volunteers this year---one at lunch time and the other at dinner. I missed the to-die-for wild turkey chili this year; it was on the menu for lunchtime. It must have been quite a project to cook for the continuous stream of hungry people that wandered in and out of camp all day and evening.
'Michigan Out-of-Doors' came to film again this year. But I'm not sure it will be as all-encompassing the way last year's hunt was film. Last year was Michigan's first disability deer hunt. This year, I was told, they focused on filming the building of a disability hunting cart---kind of like a golf cart---and they wanted to follow it from the start of the building process through an actual hunt with a disabled hunter. The camera crew includes a woman who is the cutest little thing all decked out in her camouflage. We women have come a long way since my day when a college counselor once told me that the only career paths open to me, as a woman, were in nursing or teaching.
Oh, in case anyone is wondering how I spent my rare caregiver-free day. I did my normal Saturday errands but without Don in tow. Even though I love the guy dearly, it sure felt good to be alone for such a long stretch of time even if I was only picking up the weekly groceries, getting gas and recycling the papers. To mark this rare occasion, I bought myself a dozen roses and polished my finger nails. It just seemed like a woman should do something girlie on hunting day.
Now we can look forward to the community fund raiser coming up that helps pay for this event. (The disabled hunters don't pay a dime for their hunt.) A local church stepped forward to offer to do this and they raised $2,000 last year holding a dinner that included a silent auction and selling tickets on tons of great door prizes. The sheer number of volunteers who put their hearts and souls into making the disability deer hunt successful is a wonderful statement about society, don't you think?
Jean Riva ©
NOTE: On the second day of the hunt another two deer were brought in making it a total of four for the twenty-six disabled guys.