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Hunter in a blind. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.

Hunter in a blind. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.

Record deer harvest at Crane Meadows
National Wildlife Refuge disabled hunt

It’s easy to take for granted the many public hunting opportunities found close to home in central Minnesota’s refuge lands. Some avid Minnesota hunters even refer to the opener of deer hunting as an unofficial state holiday, but what if you could not access these areas without assistance and had to miss out on deer hunting? On October 12 and 13, Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in partnership with the Friends of Crane Meadows and the Resource Center for Independent Living called Options, made it possible for ten central Minnesotans with disabilities to have an early celebration of deer hunting at its annual disabled deer hunt.

For some hunt participants it was the first time they had the chance to hunt since they’ve had their disability and others for the first time ever! Like any good old deer camp, it was about more than just the harvest of deer; it was a celebration of enjoying nature and camaraderie. As one hunter, Ron Trester, reflected, “Since being dependent on using a wheelchair for mobility, I never imagined that I would ever be able to go deer hunting again. It actually felt like being part of a brotherhood.”

This year was the refuge’s most successful disability hunt in its history; eight out of ten hunters bagged a deer. Just as important to the harvesting of a deer, were the fellowship, gratification, and compassion experienced by hunters and the entire community of people who assisted as volunteers, sponsors, partners and staff.

On the first day of the hunt, 10 men and their mentors, as well as many refuge volunteers and staff, met at refuge headquarters for a mandatory briefing. Afterwards, hunters were free to decide when to hunt and when to warm up with friends. The Friends provided warm meals throughout the hunt. Three deer were bagged the first day of the hunt and five the next day. With the help of their mentors and other volunteers, the deer were tracked, retrieved, and field dressed for the hunters to take home.

In the end, eight deer were harvested, 10 hunters left the hunt invigorated, and the community of people involved with the hunt is forever touched.

If you would like to learn ways you can participate with this program in the future as a hunter, mentor, or volunteer, please contact the refuge. You can also help by contacting the Friends of Crane Meadows to learn more about their effort to construct Americans with Disabilities Act accessible hunt blinds. Both the Friends of Crane Meadows and refuge staff can be reached at 320-632-1575.

Crane Meadows Refuge is part of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge Complex which is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and located near the cities of Little Falls, Royalton, and Pierz in central Minnesota.

By Michelle Bengson
Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

2016 hunters and mentors. Photo by Marilyn Emerson/USFWS.

2016 hunters and mentors. Photo by Marilyn Emerson/USFWS.

 

Last updated: November 9, 2016