Deer hunting for young people is an event “of the hearts of all of us”
BRINKHAVEN – A little after 6 p.m., as a few hundred volunteers, spectators and family members finished their dinner, the first of 27 hunters, guides and cameramen stopped in the demarcated area and stopped in front of the Whitetail Heritage of Ohio banner.
With all the fanfare of a Hollywood red carpet event, those waiting, including the kids who were passing the time playing a game of kickball in the nearby open field, pushed on to see the young hunter and the deer he shot.
From the truck came Carter, the adopted child of guide Justin Troyer, with a smile as big as the setting sun. No one questioned his choice of which deer he shot, as what was most important were the benefits of the hunting and outdoor seed that was planted in his memory, and the smile on his face. .
“It went well,” Carter said of the hunt. “I decided I was going to kill this deer, the first one. Dad opened the window, I put my bow on it and I shot it. “
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For the past 15 years, Whitetail Heritage of Ohio has conducted a youth hunt in cooperation with area landowners and the Tiverton-62 Co-op, a group of hunters from northern Coshocton County who surrender their property to hunt for a Saturday in early October. every fall.
The day is designed to create memories for hunters with disabilities, intellectual disabilities and beginners who otherwise would not have the opportunity to hunt. And it’s a full day, with each hunter outfitted from head to toe with camouflaged clothing and boots, instruction from WHOO members, as well as TenPoint Crossbow Technologies, who bring all the equipment necessary for hunters to succeed. in the field. .
An incredible experience and opportunity
“It’s an incredible experience,” said Justin Troyer. “It’s an incredible opportunity, not only for Carter, but for all hunters. He’s been living with us for nine months now, and it’s an opportunity he never would have had before.”
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Shortly after Carter arrived with the first deer, the rain started to fall, but that didn’t stop the excitement whenever a truck or side-by-side four-wheeler pulled in. in the observation lane. There were honking and hugs, high-fives and screams. For the day, 17 of the 27 hunters harvested deer, but all had successful hunts in their eyes, and in the eyes of their families.
“It’s a business,” OMSO President Mose Keim said of the event, “but the landowners are the real heroes. They are like the offensive line of football. We coordinate the event, but it doesn’t happen without landowners. “
Whitetail Heritage of Ohio submitted more than 53 nominations to select this year’s list of hunters, including one-third of repeats from previous years. There were boys and girls and young adults, some were legally blind, paralyzed or had an intellectual disability, others had simply never had the chance to hunt before.
“If you have families who hunt, then you don’t belong here,” Keim said.
And while a lot of hunters came from within 50 miles of Brinkhaven, this year there were three hunters from Indiana.
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“Good news travels, it’s not just bad things”
One of those hunters was Aaron Mast of Goshen, whose first words as he stepped out of the truck were, “I really aimed,” as he threw his fist in the air.
“Good news travels, it’s not just bad things that travel,” said Eli Yoder, board member for Whitetail Heritage of Ohio, known for hosting a quality event.
And, it certainly was, as it gets bigger and better every year. Just hosting an event of this magnitude not only requires a significant financial commitment, but WHOO also needs a ton of hunting properties to do it.
The 23 landowners in the area provided their properties and blinds for the day, while WHOO put four hunters on their leasehold in the area. The price of hunting clothes alone exceeded $ 5,400, and breakfast, lunch and dinner for all participants was free for the day.
Each hunter receives an unseen video of his hunt, as well as a video of the day entirely edited by Cody Altizer, a filmmaker from Virginia who specializes in outdoor productions. Additionally, WHOO takes every harvested deer to Miller Custom Meats in Millersburg for processing.
An event ‘from the heart of each of us’
These are just the obvious expenses, there was so much more, not to mention all the planning and coordination that takes place throughout the year.
“It is done from the hearts of each of us,” said Brian Yoder, WHO Board Member. “It’s been my year. The smiles are just amazing.”
Just to show how amazing the WHOO volunteers are, they stayed until 2:30 a.m. just to find the deer slaughtered by Esther Miller. They brought Eddie Schlabach’s famous tracker dog, Porky, and eventually found the deer dead in a pond.
Volunteers Kevin Schlabach and Drew Beaver fetched a canoe, used the only things they had as paddles, including a metal chair, and pulled the deer out of the pond.
“It shows the dedication of these guys for the hunter to be connected with his deer,” Keim said. “Everyone was tired, but they weren’t going to give up.”
Jonathan Yoder, 14, of Baltic, shot the biggest dollar of the day, an 8-point pointer that he, guide Andy Dunmire and cameraman Mahlon Yoder waited until the last light of shooting to get . He was one of five harvested males of the day, all of which will be made into shoulder mounts for hunters.
“The landowner told us if we were patient, the males would come,” said Mahlon Yoder.
“Yeah, that was the goal,” said Jonathan, who shot from 20 yards.
It was a long day at the Pilgrim Hills Mentorship Camp, which was the basis of the event, but a long day worth it.
You see, you can’t put a price on smiles and memories.
The Art Holden external correspondent can be reached [email protected]