Deer Hunt for the Disabled
Around 1982, Dale Miller - Rend Lake Corps Ranger, had the idea of hosting a deer hunt for disabled hunters. Miller was good friends with fellow ranger and Sesser-Valier school teacher, Gene Morgan. Morgan, founder of the Outdoorsmen Club in 1978, saw a perfect marriage of club members and the hunt. So, in the fall of 1983, the Outdoorsmen Club began administering the hunt (providing all volunteer services). Since that year, Outdoorsmen Club members have proudly taken 30+ disabled hunters afield each year for a fantastic weekend of firearm deer hunting. To date, over 1,100 disabled hunters have spent hunting season at Rend Lake, assisted by their Outdoorsmen helpers.
Outdoorsmen members are paired with specific hunters long before the hunt begins. That member is then assigned to build "their" hunter's opening day blind, which they take great pride in prepairing for their hunter.
After a busy day of preparing, hosting, and tearing down the Deer Banquet, Outdoorsmen head home at 11:00 p.m. for a quick wink before reporting for duty at 3:00 a.m. the next morning. From here the OC "guide" will meet their hunter, escort them to the correct travel caravan, retrieve their breakfast, and help prepare for the day's hunt.
When it's time, the OC guide will travel with their hunter to the blind site and assist the hunter into the field, carrying everything that is needed for the day's hunt. Once at the blind, the OC guide will lay scent, organize supplies, etc, whatever the hunter needs done to be ready for daylight. Once the hunter is settled, the OC guide will wish their hunter luck and leave the blind site to be transported back to deer camp.
Once in camp, the Outdoorsmen will await a call from their hunter. This call could be to track a deer, drag a deer, bring food or drink, or some other assistance needed by the hunter. Whatever it might be, the OC guide is on call, ready to do the task at hand.
Our deer hunt is about so much more than just hunting; it's about the bonds built between the hunter and their student helper. Often times, these bonds are lifelong and transcend just the hunting world. Hunters have returned to the school for their helper's graduation, sent Christmas cards and presents, and a whole lot more. Student helpers often return to deer camp years after graduation just to visit their hunter and catch up on each other's lives.
The entire process is as enriching to the students as it is to the hunters. It is a true symbiotic relationship where both parties benefit from and are enriched by the experience.