Sponsors Sought for Disabled Hunter Deer Hunts This Fall

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MADISON – Landowners interested in sponsoring a gun deer hunt this fall for hunters with disabilities have until June 1 to enroll their property in the Deer Hunts for Persons with Disabilities Program.

Since its inception in 1990 the program has been an endearing success, according to state wildlife officials, who say it has created more fertile ground for lasting friendships and joyful reunions than any other program initiated by the state Department of Natural Resources.

“It’s real close to people’s hearts,” said Andy Janicki, accessibility coordinator for the state Department of Natural Resources. “It’s amazing how many people and different groups are involved with this.”

The goal is to offer people with physical or visual disabilities an opportunity to hunt deer when temperatures are mild and mobility outdoors is less of a problem.

This year’s hunt tales place Oct. 4 – 12. Sponsor applications are available at all DNR service centers and on the disabled deer hunt page of the DNR Web site.

In 2007, more than 100 sponsors, individuals and groups, enrolled an estimated 34,000 acres of land in the program. Most sponsors return to the program year after year and admit to being richly rewarded for their effort.

In Clark County, the “Hunt for Hunters with Disabilities” organization is entering its 10th year with an amazing 15,000 acres of land being made available this fall by 97 property owners. Founding organizer Dale Petkovsek said 60 to 65 hunters participate and all but a small percentage return each year, generally all who are able.

The success rate for hunters with disabilities in Clark County is generally about 73 percent, much higher than achieved by able-bodied hunters in November. In 2007 it dipped to a still impressive 68 percent. Nature conspired against hunters by providing plentiful food within the protective cover of dense wood lots.

“Last year the oaks dropped a ton of acorns and the fields were wetter than heck,” Petkovsek said. “It was a tough year.”

Many of the landowners actively participate in guiding and assisting the hunters and often form strong bonds with them.

“There are folks here who have formed some pretty deep relationships over the years,” Petkovsek said.

Local hunters fill the pool of available guides

“It seems every year there gets to be another couple who say, ‘Hey, I’ll help. Write my name down,’” Petkovsek said.

Petkovsek, a resort owner, said landowners first saw the program as an additional opportunity to trim an overly large deer herd in farm country.

“It would be one way to get rid of another deer or two,” he said. “That’s how it all started. But now it’s more of a personal satisfaction thing.”

Linda Olver, assistant DNR deer and bear ecologist, said nearly 10,000 acres have been added to the program during the past five years.

“With the continued support and generosity of sponsors and landowners, we hope to make more land available to disabled hunters in 2008,” Olver said.

Hunters with a valid, long-term Class B permit – which authorizes hunting from a stationary vehicle – may now participate in the hunt. Previously only hunters with Class A or C disabled permit could participate.

With permission from the landowner, hunters without disabilities may now hunt small game or hunt deer with archery equipment on property enrolled in the hunt. All hunters, with the exception of water fowlers, must wear blaze orange.

Class C permit holders are now authorized to use laser sights

Hunters with Class A, long-term Class B or Class C disabled hunting permits may request a list of 2008 hunts, with locations and sponsors, from any DNR service center. Lists will be available after July 1.

Since sponsors must provide the DNR with a list of hunters and permit numbers by Sept. 1, hunters are encouraged to make arrangements as soon as possible. Disabled hunters have until Sept. 1 to contact sponsors for the Oct. 4 – 12 hunt.

It could be a great one.

“I just hope we don’t have so many acorns,” Petkovsek said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Andy Janicki, DNR accessibility coordinator, 608-267-7490