By Jay TownsendDecember 3, 2012
MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. - Hunting the elusive whitetail deer is a challenge that many Arkansans prepare for year round. Sneaking in and out of the woods without being seen, heard or smelled is very difficult, even for the seasoned hunter. Imagine how hard it would be to take down the "big one" if you had a physical disability and were unable to move about without the use of mechanized aid.
The Mountain Home Project Office hosted the annual Ozark Isle/Dry Run Deer Hunt for the non-ambulatory from Oct. 22-24. The event is designed to give disabled hunters with limited capabilities the chance to harvest a buck or doe from a pop-up or lift blind. Applications were collected from around Arkansas and 10 were chosen at the Greer's Ferry Project office in Heber Springs, Ark. The 10 successful applicants were contacted by phone in September and sent a contact letter and hunter packet by mail.
"This year we set up eight pop-up blinds and one lift blind on Ozark Isle and two pop-up blinds on the Dry Run hunting area," said Conservation Biologist Jeremy Jennings with the Army Corps of Engineers Mountain Home Project Office. "Having both areas available we were able to set up enough blind locations for 10 hunters. This provided more opportunities for the disabled hunters to hunt and experience what many of us take for granted."
The 10 participants drew for the 11 blind positions before each evening and morning hunt.
"This year we used 6 foot x 6 foot tent type nylon camouflage blinds and laid down carpeted floor mats at each of the sites," said Jennings.
The lift blind was provided by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, courtesy of Cook's Lake Education Center in Casscoe, Ark.
Rangers from the Mountain Home Project Office assisted hunters and guides to and from blinds, tracked and recovered deer, transported, checked, and processed the harvested deer and took down the blinds. Radio contact was maintained with each of the hunters in case of an emergency and for safety.
"This is and has been a great event for us and is consistently one of the best events, maybe even Corps-wide, in terms of seeing deer, opportunity to harvest, scenery, participation and satisfaction," said Project Manager Tracey Fancher from the Mountain Home Project Office.
Each hunter had the opportunity to harvest a deer. Eight hunters tagged 12 deer, eight does and four button bucks total. Six does were missed by four hunters. There were 116 deer sightings throughout the hunt.
"The 10 hunters seemed extremely happy with the turnout of the hunt. Eight of the 10 hunters harvested deer and all 10 shot at deer. This was a safe hunt with no instances of injuries or problems. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the hunters and the success they experienced. I believe we had a great hunt thanks to a great group of hunters and the assistance from everyone. I have to give special thanks to all of the rangers and volunteers who helped. This could not have been done without them," said Johnson.