Special Deer Hunts Successful

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A cooperative venture among various upstate private landowners, hunting clubs, sportsmen's preserves, industrial timber companies and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources is allowing many of today's young hunters and mobility impaired sportsmen unique opportunities to experience the challenges, enjoyment and thrills associated with hunting white-tailed deer.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has developed cooperative arrangements with a number of these private groups and works closely with them to cosponsor these special events. During 2003, the special deer hunts were again very successful.

The upstate special deer hunts are all conducted on private properties and are designed for two very different groups of sportsmen. These groups are the newest, young hunters and those sportsmen who have severe mobility impairments. The upstate youth hunts, initiated in 1996, are designed for young people 10 to 15 years of age who have an interest in hunting but have no one to take them or have very limited opportunities to hunt. Mobility impaired hunts began in 1995 in the upstate and are for individuals who are permanently confined to a wheel chair, permanently require some type of mechanical aid to assist them in walking or have had a single or double leg amputation. Individuals in either of these groups are able to attend these special deer hunts at no cost. The youth hunts are conducted in Laurens, Newberry, Kershaw, Spartanburg and York counties, and the mobility impaired hunts are held in Laurens, Newberry and Spartanburg counties.

International Paper Co. has led the way since the inception of these unique hunts. This industrial timber giant has provided the land resources, personnel and the financial support to ensure that these special deer hunts are made available in the upstate. Also, a number of private individuals have committed significant amounts of their time and financial resources to provide hunting opportunities for these special groups of sportsmen. The list of sponsors gets longer each year.

Youth deer hunt sponsors included: Boykin Mill Gun Club, Doug Odom; Clinton House Plantation, Chris Grant; Charaketo Hunt Club, Charlie Warrington; Dodson Farm, Randy Dodson; Harris Springs Preserve, Donny Roth; International Paper Co., Tom Brant; Mulberry Hunt Club, Fred Myers; Ten Point Hunt Club, Greg Jones; and 100 Oaks Plantation, R. B. Rhyne.

Mobility impaired deer hunt sponsors included: BD Properties, Lon Alexander; Belfast Hunt Club, Lee Walsh; Blackmon Farm, Charles Blackmon; Campbell Property, Harold Campbell; Carroll Hunt Club, Phil Lucas; Clinton House Plantation, Chris Grant; Cowford Land Co., Dr. Don McClure; International Paper Co., Tom Brant; Longbeard Timber Co., Dr. David Weir; Mudlick, Cecil Duffie; Pitts Place, Wade Pitts; Quaker Creek Farm, Dr. Wallace Boyd; Southern Timber Associates, Steve Frantz; TCA International Inc., Otis Taylor; Thomason Farm, Bryson Thomason; and Woollen Farm, Dr. Claude Woollen.

International Paper Co. has annually hosted both a youth deer hunt and a mobility impaired deer hunt. The International Paper hunt for the mobility impaired was again conducted in cooperation with the Belfast Hunt Club. Tom Brant, International Paper forester, said: "International Paper is glad to have the resources and the facilities to offer these special hunts. All International Paper personnel who have assisted with these hunts enjoyed the experience and were delighted to help provide this opportunity for these special groups."

Several private hunt clubs in Kershaw County cooperate with the DNR in graciously making their lands available for these special youth deer hunts. Fred Myers of Mulberry Hunt Club said, "The members of our hunt club are delighted that we can participate in this program. It is a great opportunity for our youth to have this kind of program available to them."

At the youth deer hunts, significant time is devoted to education and training prior to actually going hunting. Discussions of the hunting heritage, deer biology and hunter ethics are held. Firearms safety is stressed, and the safe and proper methods of gun handling are reviewed. Then, all participants go to the rifle range and fire the rifle they will be using during the hunt. Each youth is assigned an adult mentor to accompany them during all activities at the rifle range and while in the field hunting.

The combined efforts of the upstate special hunts this season provided an opportunity for 59 youth and 53 mobility impaired individuals to go deer hunting at some of the most well managed and very best private hunting areas in the Piedmont. Many of the participants commented how much this opportunity means to them as well as expressing their enjoyment of the hunting experience, the meals and the fellowship among old friends and new acquaintances. One of the mobility impaired hunters noted that the deer that are harvested during these special hunts is just an added bonus. This year, the youth hunters took 10 deer, and the mobility impaired hunters harvested 16 deer.

The South Carolina Wildlife Law Enforcement Officers Association provided special equipment and personnel assistance at the mobility-impaired hunts. A Huntmaster (hydraulic lift) stand was donated for use at the mobility impaired deer hunts by the Paralyzed Veterans of America. All mobility impaired hunt participants were invited to The Clinton House Plantation on Saturday for a special lunch and afternoon of shooting sporting clays. The Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund assisted financially at the youth hunts.

All youths who participate in the special youth deer hunts are made aware of the Take One Make One program. This is the DNR youth - young adult hunting and shooting sports mentorship and recruitment program. It is a statewide program designed to get young people involved in a variety of outdoor activities throughout the year by assigning participating youngsters to carefully selected mentors. As more youths are finding out about this exciting new program, Take One Make One is growing at a rapid rate.

It is not too early to be thinking about and planning for next year's upstate special deer hunts. Next year's dates are set and will be published in the 2004-2005 DNR rules and regulations booklet. If you would like to receive an application for one of these special hunts, write the DNR at PO Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202, telephone (803) 734-3886 in Columbia or download an application from the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.sc.us. Those interested in youth hunting and fishing opportunities statewide should write the Take One Make One program at the same Columbia DNR address or telephone (803) 734-4011.