The National Wild Turkey Federation's (NWTF) Wheelin' Sportsman program hosts their "Hunt of a Lifetime" once a year in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) at the Savannah River Site (SRS) near Aiken, S.C. The two-day event allows wheelchair hunters to take to the pristine woods of the SRS on Friday afternoon before a dinner banquet at the nearby University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Lab (SREL), building the anticipation among the handicapped hunters for the next morning's hunt when turkey activity is peaking. Lowcountryoutdoors.com applauds the Aiken Sertoma Club, Wackenhut Services and all the DOE employees that donate their time to make this hunt a success - because when those with special needs derive so much confidence and joy from participating in our hunting heritage, everyone who is willing needs to come together and sustain these type of sporting opportunities. Sporting?? Did I mention that these hunters are confined to a wheelchair! Sometimes during a turkey hunt it is wise to move a bit to where the gobblers are heading, but when you hunt from a ground blind this is not likely. Each hunter has a guide with him to call to the gobblers and this increases their chance for success. Success?? Twenty-seven hunters went to the SRS woods on Saturday morning and they brought back 27 longbeard gobblers!! Not everyone tagged a bird, but they reached the same tally because several hunters were able to take two birds on the same hunt - which is quite a feat. Hunter Jamie Spears from Inman pulled off the "home run" of turkey hunting by taking two longbeards with one shot from his 12-gauge Benelli. The Winchester extended range #6 shot easily found the target at 38 yards, and caller and NWTF friend Dave Wilson of Lexington quickly walked over and retrieved the birds for Spears, and they could head back to the SREL for check-in and a celebratory lunch. This hunt is in its 6th year and this was by far the most hunter success ever recorded with the 38-degree morning temperature really helping to fire up the gobbling activity. All types of camo attire was used by the hunters but McConnell Hall Outfitters is working on a variation of their Buff Tuff jeans for use by mobility impaired hunters - www.mhoonline.com. The SRS hunt is part of the "Making Tracks" program that is a memorandum of understanding between the NWTF and US Forest Service. Ted Schecnk with "Making Tracks" told me, "this is a national program and we partner to put on hunts in almost every state in the county." Perhaps the best part of this event, and similar hunts, are the smiling faces spawned by the fellowship after the hunt when the Wheelin' Sportsmen share their stories of outdoor adventures.
Photos By Jeff Dennis: Hunter Jamie Spears shows off his "home run" birds next to a beautiful wildflower, UGA's SREL hosted the social events for the hunt, a group photo shows some of the hunters and their harvested wild turkeys, the commemorative turkey call given to participants was made of black walnut and sycamore by Jody Rohm of Pennsylvania