It is a fact that many children with debilitating illnesses may never get to do some of the things other children experience, among them is deer hunting. However, West Portsmouth resident Todd Dunn makes that happen for such children with his True Lure No Kill Deer Hunt.
Dunn has a fenced in area of 10 acres where deer are brought in. They get the scent from them, cut their horns and give them shots every year. Tranquilizing the deer has to happen, so Dunn came up with the idea of a No Kill Deer Hunt, giving children with physical and developmental disabilities the opportunity to experience the thrill of the hunt. The goal is to give the children and their families memories that last forever.
It’s just like a real hunt. Dunn said they put them in a blind, give the children involved in the hunt food, and make it as realistic as possible, except they are guaranteed to see a deer.
Last year (2015) Rodney Hatfield, a disabled child, took two full days to get his deer, but he did. Sitting with him was his disabled Vietnam veteran grandfather Ed Lewis. Lynzee Nickles took a full day, but she too got her deer.
“She always wants to hunt, but she doesn’t want to hurt Bambi,” Lynzee’s mother, Cindi 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.”
The process is realistic but not lethal.
“We started bringing the kids in and letting them use my dart gun,” Dunn said. “The deer will go to sleep. It will run just like when you shoot it and it will usually go over in the weeds, and then I take them and show them how to track him. We’ll track him down and they’ll get their pictures with him.”
The horns, which have to be cut off anyway, are given to the children, and this year a taxidermist is donating four mounts with capes, so they will get a head for their wall. Before you wonder how you get a head from a tranquilized deer, you learn that the mounted heads are not real, but are styrofoam heads. He said the Amish have donated the capes.
There is more to the experience than just “bagging” a deer.
“They watch the squirrels come in. They watch the quail. They watch the turtledoves, they watch the squirrels run up and down the tree, something they’ve never seen before,” Dunn said. “Then they watch the fawns come in and eat and the does, then they get a chance when a buck comes in, just like real hunting.”
Dunn said parents or guardians sit with the children as they wait for their deer.
Dunn said he needs donations from the public for things like camouflage outfits, food and other items for the children and anyone wishing to make a donation can call him at 740-858-0436.
“It’s just as real as I can make it,” Dunn said. “I’ve hunted all my life. I’ve got a lot of trophy bucks, I make it as real as possible for the kids.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.