By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer
THOMSON, Ill. —
A deer hunt for sportsmen with disabilities was held recently at the Lost Mound unit of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
Forty hunters and their assistants participated in the hunt. Twenty-three deer were harvested, which included 16 does and seven bucks.
The hunt began in 2007 and is held one week prior to Illinois’ first firearms deer season. A medical disability is required. The hunt is conducted in areas closed to public hunting due to the ongoing environmental clean-up effort at the Savanna Army Depot in Savanna, Ill.
This hunt has gained national attention. This year, hunters travelled from 10 states that included Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Iowa, Wisconsin, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Georgia and Illinois.
“Success is attributed to the high quality hunting experience and to partnerships. The southern Illinois based Seasons of Hope organization has provided many disabled hunters the opportunity to participate at Lost Mound,” Ed Britton, wildlife refuge manager, said.
Charlie Ande, of Sun Prairie, Wis., killed the largest deer, an eight-point buck with a field dress weight of 202 pounds. He has multiple sclerosis and hunts from a wheelchair. His hunting partner was Col. Joseph Tirone, the last installation commander at the Savanna Army Depot, which closed in 2000. Tirone recently transferred to the Rock Island Arsenal in Rock Island, Ill.
Personal challenges of the hunters included paraplegics, quadriplegics and amputees. One hunter, a quadriplegic, maneuvered his mounted gun on a target by manipulating a controller box with his chin. When a deer was in the crosshairs, he blew through a tube to engage an electronic trigger to fire the shotgun.
“It was a high quality hunting experience by a special group of sportsmen. Their daily challenges of life were overshadowed by the enthusiasm and determination for deer hunting. They provided both inspiration and encouragement to the staff and volunteers that administered the hunt,” Alan Anderson, Lost Mound site manager, said.
All hunters were provided a box of copper shotgun slugs prior to the hunt and were encouraged to use this non-toxic ammunition. This voluntary program was initiated to reduce the potential for lead poisoning in bald eagles that scavenge on the gut piles that are left in the field.
The disabled and youth deer hunts will be held at Lost Mound next year. For more information, contact the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge office at (815) 273-2732.