Thursday, December 15, 2011

2011 Outdoorsman Handicap Deer Hunt Banquet

Around 30 years ago Gene Morgan and Dale Miller started the SV Outdoorsman Handicap Deer Hunt with the help from the US Corp of Engineers at Rend Lake.

In order to join the SV Outdoorsman each high school student has to participate in a number of activities that enhance both the community and the outdoors. They have to recycle 50 pounds of aluminum each year, get to go on the Walden Solo their junior year (have to camp by themselves for one night with only a pup tent and trail mix) and get the opportunity to help with the Handicap Deer Hunt each year. Both of my brothers and myself are proud alum of the Outdoorsman Club.

Johnathon was told he was joining the club his freshman year and 'if' he didn't enjoy it he didn't have to join the other three years.  I'm pretty sure he'll be an Outdoorsman all 4 years of high school.

On the Thursday night before the first weekend of shot gun season, the SV Outdoorsman throw a banquet for all the handicap hunters. The students (SV Outdoorsman) get the opportunity to meet their hunter, dinner is served, raffle tickets are sold, prizes are given away! While it's a banquet, it's casual dress - most are in either orange or camo.

On the picture strip the top picture is of senior Anthony Acosta showing Johnathon the ropes on raffle ticket sales - it's a complicated process!

When the banquet starts, all the Freshman are introduced. They're required to quote the Outdoorsman pledge in front of the packed gym and receive their orange hat - inducing them into the club.  The numbers in the club have been dwindling over the last couple years, but the Freshman class came on strong with 31 members!  There are only around 60 students in his whole class.  I hope they all stick it out through their senior year.

Multiple prizes are raffled off through out the night & a slide show of past hunts is shown.  Sesser-Valier is probably one of the only schools in the country that not only allows a gun in the school, but gives at least 3 of them to a student!  I think they gave away 5 or 6 guns this year at the banquet.  The big prize was a $2000 Benilli that the kids sold $5 raffle tickets for.  I've bought these tickets for approximately 25 years now and have yet to win.

Each student was required to sell at least 5 tickets, for each ticket they sold over that their name went in a hat.  A 22-caliber riffle was given to one of the students by a random draw for selling raffle tickets.  Some kids names were in the pot only 1 time, thanks to Johnathon's Aunt Amy and Uncle Michael - his name was in there about 60 times.  He was the top seller this year!  And as luck would have it....his name was drawn for the riffle!!

When I was in school, as long as you had your FireArms card with you then you could take the gun home.  Of course times have changed and in the state of Illinois I think you have a 48 hour wait and the gun has to be 'sold' by an authorized dealer.  Johnathon has never shot a gun, not because he wasn't allowed but simply because he never showed any interest.  When his name was called,
1 - I think Poppa Deaner and I were more excited and
2 - he was a little naive as to what was going to happen
On the picture strip above the first picture (on the left) is of he and Mr.Sample posing with 'his' new gun.  In the middle picture he attempts to walk back to our table with 'his' gun and you can see Mr.Sample telling him to hold on.  The last picture is Mr.Sample trying to explain to a confused Freshman why he can't take 'his' gun!  The crowd laughed, not sure Johnathon truly understood what was going on.

The Handicap Deer Hunt:
A couple weeks before the banquet, the Outdoorsman kids meet up early one Saturday morning and build ground level blinds for the hunters.  They carry bales of straw and use whatever they can find in the surrounding area to camouflage the blind.  The day after the banquet they have to be at deer camp at 3:30am to help pack up their hunter and get them to their stand. Most of the hunters are in wheelchairs or have limited walking mobility. Getting them across a field to a stand is sometimes quite a challenge. Once the hunters are situated, the Corp representative gives them their unloaded gun (hunters are not allowed to have a loaded gun while students are present).

The hunters call deer camp when they get a deer at which time the kids head back out, track the deer, field dress it and load it onto the hunters car for them. Being tired from not sleeping and then experiencing the sheer joy of seeing a hunter kill a deer for the first time since being handicap (thinking they'd never get to hunt again) is quite overwhelming on the emotions. The Handicap Deer Hunt is an experience they'll remember for the rest of their lives.