“It’s heaven out here,” former Amberley Village Police officer Keith Sowder said of his experience at True Lure No Kill Deer Hunt. “I could sit here and watch them (deer) all day.”
Sowder was selected to come to West Portsmouth to hunt his deer by Army SGT (Retired) Rick Bell, who met Sowder at the Adams County Fair this year. Sowder has multiple sclerosis and is now confined to a wheelchair. He said he did not think he would ever get the opportunity, ever again, as he did Thursday afternoon when he was able to shoot a 24 point buck on Todd Dunn’s farm.
The process is quite simple, Dunn, Mike Bell and SGT Rick Bell, work to find disabled veterans and disabled children to come to the farm and bring down the deer. Dunn’s farm is actually a deer farm where he collects deer urine for hunters to use for scent. Dunn’s hunters come to the farm and shoot the bucks with a tranquilizer for two reasons. The first is so Dunn can give the deer their annual dose of vaccinations, and the second is to remove the horns so they won’t injure each other during rut (mating) season.
Sometimes the process might take hours before the assigned buck arrives on the scene, which is a blind set up on the hill. When they approach, the lucky person will shoot a dart in to the deer, putting it to sleep for a short while.
When the horns are removed from the deer, they are given to a taxidermist who will mount them on a deer head that they have donated. Then the trophy deer head mount will be presented to the hunter at a ceremony.
Dunn said there is no other No Kill deer hunt of this kind in the country. “We’re the only one,” he said. “No one else does this in the country.”
For some, the satisfaction of being able to hunt is beyond belief because they thought their disability would not permit such an activity. But for people like Sowder, the volunteers helped with holding the rifle while he instructed them to move the weapon up or down, left or right, until he had his shot zeroed in. Sowder brought his wife, Brigid, and three sons, Samuel, Josiah, and Evan to the hunt. They also played a hand in helping him score the big buck.
“I’m really excited that he gets to do it,” Brigid said.”It’s so wonderful to see this.”
Sowder was diagnosed with MS in 2012 and said he had to retire from the force in 2013. “I’m looking forward to it,” he said prior to entering the gates. “I’m really excited to get this opportunity.”
Dunn said he has 67 deer inside the 25 plus acre fence. He said the reward of seeing the person in their chair shoot a rifle, sometimes for the first time in years, or their entire life, is priceless. “The look on their face is worth it all,” he said. “Some of them get really emotional at times.”
That was the case for Ron Wood and his wife Shelly, who were at the farm for Ron’s hunt Tuesday afternoon. Ron, a US Navy Veteran, was injured in a serious car accident on SR 772 outside of the Village of Rarden several years ago. The accident has left Wood in a wheelchair, but his spirits are still high.
While waiting on his deer, Wood talked about recently getting approval for a special van which he will be able to drive. He said the first thing on his bucket list is to go fishing when the van arrives.
Wood eventually took down a 26 point buck Tuesday afternoon. Dunn said Wood and his wife were very happy and very emotional after he hit his target. “It was amazing,” Dunn said. “There’s nothing like sitting with a kid or a vet and making their day.”
Wood, as well as Mike Bell, who served in the US Army and SGT Rick Bell, sat in the blind exchanging military stories waiting on the buck to arrive. They also talked of the upcoming Trout Derby next April, where the organizers have already agreed to make a special area of Turkey Creek Lake reserved for disabled veterans and children with disabilities. Both Wood and Sowder said they plan to attend the event.
Anyone who knows a disabled veteran of child who would benefit from this experience, or anyone wishing to make a donation can contact Dunn at 740-727-4209.
“I could sit up here everyday and just watch the deer,” Wood said. “I love it.”