Jennings Randolph Lake hosts 10th annual Bill Nesbit Memorial Hunt

By Cynthia Mitchell, U.S. Army Corps of EngineersDecember 18, 2015

BALTIMORE, Md. (Dec. 18, 2015) -- Several months ago, retired U.S. Army Sergeant Luis Rosa decided he wanted to pick up a new hobby: hunting.

There was only one problem.

Rosa is a Wounded Warrior who served two tours of duty in Iraq before an IED explosion altered his life course in April 2008, only two days before his 25th birthday. He lost both of his legs, part of his left arm, and also suffers from hearing and vision loss. His disabilities provide an additional challenge to an already complicated sport.

Fortunately for Rosa, he came across information on the 10th annual Bill Nesbit Physically Challenged Memorial Hunt, hosted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Nov. 16-17, 2015, in Elk Garden, West Virginia.

The event provided 10 physically disabled hunters, including five U.S. veterans, the opportunity to harvest a deer.

The annual hunt has been held on the grounds of Jennings Randolph Lake project since its inception in 2005. It was dedicated to the memory of Bill Nesbit, a past participant and volunteer who lost his life to cancer in 2008.

"It started out as a wildlife management tool, to cut down on the doe population at the project," said Bill Donnellan, USACE Jennings Randolph Lake park ranger. "Now the coin has flipped and it's more about giving back to folks in the area."

The event has continuously evolved over the years to accommodate participant's varied disabilities.

This progression is most noticeable amongst the hunting blinds, which have advanced from flimsy pop-up tents to wheelchair-accessible structures, complete with insulation and temperature control.

"Initially, we were putting up blinds in places we thought were a good place to deer hunt," said Donnellan. "Over the years, we've had to put ourselves in the hunter's shoes and consider their physical disabilities. It's been a learning experience for us organizers and our volunteers."

Both sponsors and volunteers are major contributing factors to the annual hunt's success during the last ten years. Sponsors include the Elk District Volunteer Fire Company, Wal-Mart of Keyser and Burgess Farm Service.

Many volunteers continuously donate both funds and personal time, including numerous weapons safety instructors who ensure hunter's safety remains a top priority for all participants.

One of these volunteers is Stephen Rexrode, a Vietnam veteran and one of the event's original organizers. It was Rexrode who began to solicit Wounded Warrior participation several years ago.

He reached out to numerous veteran's organizations to extend an invitation to the hunt, and he succeeded in recruiting veterans like Rosa.

"It's important to me that we bring these veterans in, to try to do everything we can do for them," said Rexrode. "I've made that a point of mine."

As for Rosa, he was able to bag his deer the second day of the hunt, and he has plans on returning again next year.

"To find a hunt that was accommodating to my needs, it seemed impossible. To be able to feel normal…who wouldn't want that?"

Jennings Randolph Lake hosts 10th annual Bill Nesbit Memorial Hunt