Todd Dunn, of True Lure Dunn’s Whitetail Deer Farm, says he is blessed to have been witnessing the continuing benefits of his no-kill deer hunt for young children with physical and developmental disabilities over the past month.
The event has been organized to give children the experience and thrill of the hunt who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to experience it. Dunn is nearly done with his hunts and has already impacted the lives of two locals more than he ever expected.
“The events have been great,” Dunn said. “The hunts were the same as any other; they took hours, even days, to get the right deer. The kids loved the opportunity and the families loved to be involved.”
Dunn said he has learned a lot this first year, claiming he will be changing some things up next year to make the time easier on the children.
“We already planned ahead enough to have a cooler in the hunting blinds, which was filled with snacks, tater chips, and juices, but I think we might do a little more next year,” Dunn said. “We might even have a little portable DVD player available for the kids to watch when they get too anxious, because hunting does take a lot of time.”
Dunn’s business collects deer urine used in hunting, which is locally farmed on his half-mile caged property.
Each year, the farmhands have to dart the growing males to administer their annual shots and to remove their antlers. The antlers are removed for the safety of the animals, since the growing males quickly become territorial with each other.
Since the deer have to be tranquilized anyway, Dunn decided it would be better to make it more meaningful, thus the idea to give kids with disabilities the experience of hunting an animal was born.
Dunn has many ideas about how he can grow the soon-to-be annual event, including video projects of the children, gifts of camouflaged attire, antler trophies and more.
“We have to work with the deer, so why not let these kids enter the cage with friendly animals and skilled adults to give them the same chance everyone else has?” Dunn said. “You don’t really understand how much this can mean to a kid, until you see them spot their first deer and their eyes just grow giant and their heart starts pounding.”
He will be working on adding more benefits as he goes along, but claims more sponsors could really help speed up the process.
Dunn also decided to host the event as an honor to his would-be daughter-in-law, Emily Patterson, who recently passed away in an accident. Dunn is currently raising his grandson, Emily’s child, while his son is serving across seas.
Lynzee Nickles, one of the children to participate in the event, had ties to Patterson, so the event was very special to her.
Nickles is an eighth grade student at Valley Middle School and has listened to hunting stories told by her father and brother for 14 years. She was able to hunt herself, thanks to Dunn, leaving her with an experience she hasn’t stopped talking about since.
“It was a really great thing for her to be part of,” Cindi Nickles, mother of Lynzee, said. “She was really excited to go hunting with her daddy and to shoot the deer herself. She was also happy to be involved in something in honor of Emily, too. We knew Emily well and what happened was a tragedy.”
Nickles said that her daughter was thrilled to receive the deer antlers as a trophy and says she has been given the opportunity to discuss hunting along with everyone else in her family.
“She always wants to hunt, but she doesn’t want to hurt Bambi,” Nickles said. “She loved having the opportunity to experience it, but not actually hurt the deer. She loved seeing what she did and was very excited. She can’t stop talking about it at all. We are grateful for the experience. It is a very good program and I thank Todd for doing such a wonderful thing for his daughter-in-law and all the kids he is benefiting.”
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.