Upstate Special Deer Hunts Program is Successful
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 private groups and works closely with them to cosponsor these special events. During 2002, the special deer hunts were the best ever, according to Gerald Moore, DNR regional wildlife biologist stationed in Union.
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 Company 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. Additionally, the hunt sponsors and 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 South Carolina Wildlife Law Enforcement Officers Association provided special financial support, equipment and personnel assistance at the mobility-impaired hunts, and the Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund assisted financially with the youth hunts. The list of sponsors gets longer each year and this year included the following organizations and individuals:
Youth Deer Hunt Sponsors
- Boykin Mill Gun Club - Dick Sanders
- Charaketo Hunt Club - Charlie Warrington
- Harris Springs Preserve - Donny Roth
- International Paper Co. - Ken Leach
- Mulberry Hunt Club - Fred Myers
- 10 Point Hunt Club - Gary Jones
- 100 Oaks Plantation - R.B. Rhyne
Mobility Impaired Deer Hunt Sponsors
- Belfast Hunt Club - Lee Walsh
- Campbell Property - Harold Campbell
- Carroll Hunt Club - Phil Lucas
- International Paper Co. - Ken Leach
- Mudlick - Cecil Duffie
- Quaker Creek Farm - Dr. Wallace Boyd
- Southern Timber Associates - Steve Frantz
- TCA International Inc. - Otis Taylor
- The Pitts Place - Wade Pitts
- 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. Ken Leach, a forester with International Paper, said International Paper is glad to have the resources and the facilities to offer these special hunts. He said 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 have also cooperated with the DNR for several years in graciously making their lands available for special youth deer hunts. Fred Myers of Mulberry Hunt Club said, "The members of our hunt club are proud that we can participate in this program. We feel 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. Hunting heritage, deer biology and hunter ethics are all discussed. Firearms safety is stressed, and the safe and proper methods of gun handling are reviewed. All participants then 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 41 youths and 56 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 harvested during these special hunts are just an added bonus. This year, the youth hunters took 10 deer, and 23 deer were harvested at the mobility-impaired hunts.
All youths who participate in the special youth deer hunts are made aware of the "Take One Make One" program. This DNR program introduces youths and young adults to hunting shooting sports and provides mentors for these activities. This statewide program is designed to get young people involved in a variety of outdoor activities throughout the year by assigning participating youngsters to carefully selected mentors.
It is not too early to be planning for next year's Upstate special deer hunts. This year's dates are set and will be published in the DNR 2003-2004 "Rules & Regulations" booklet. If you would like to receive an application for one of these special hunts contact the Union DNR Office at 124 Wildlife Drive, Union, SC 29379, telephone (864) 427-4771 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 contact the Take One Make One program at PO Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202, telephone (803) 734-3999 or visit the DNR Web site.