An event we look forward to every year, the Serve Outdoors deer hunt at Canyon Lake, Tx., was suddenly upon us. I left home early last Friday morning and headed for the hill country. Since we were going to be hunting that afternoon, I needed to get there before the other hunters started to show up. We were expecting 16 disabled outdoorsmen for the weekend, and all those who made it to the safety meeting at 2 p.m. would be able to go to the stand that first evening.
It was the dark of the moon and the rut was heating up according to James Chambers, the Army Corps ranger that spearheads the hunt from his office at Canyon. He and his people have had feeders going for more than a month now, and my people came in a couple of times in October to set up blinds to get them ready for wheelchair users. It was all coming together now, and fast.
I was especially looking forward to seeing Josh Wilhelm on this hunt. You see, Josh is a young man from Austin who had just been paralyzed a few months ago this summer in a diving accident very similar to the one I had 23 years ago. I met Josh at the rehab hospital in Houston where we started talking about hunting. Right away, I could tell he was interested but wasn’t sure about how it could possibly work. It was so soon after his injury that he still had that ‘deer in the headlights’ look in his eyes. Still, I asked him to come on our duck hunt we had scheduled in September even though I didn’t think he’d come. Very few people do so soon after they get out.
Turns out, Josh did make it. He struggled mightily to shoot with the equipment we made for him to pull the trigger with. He didn’t have his own shotgun and he didn’t kill any ducks, but none of that really mattered. The important thing was that he got out there and gave it a go. Even if he failed, that’s the only way Josh was going to figure out what he needed to be able to do it someday.
It was now two months later. Josh was coming back for another try. Even after a recent trip to the hospital with a bladder infection, he wasn’t going to miss out on the hunt.
When I arrived at the pavilion in Canyon Park, our HQ for the hunt, the place was starting to bustle with volunteers preparing for our 12 disabled members and the 4 wounded soldiers from BAMC that would be joining us this year. I met James there, and before I could put a camo shirt on, we were off to switch out a couple of pop-up blinds that were bigger than the ones that were already in place. After that, things seem to kinda run themselves on events like this.
All but 3 hunters arrived in time for the first hunt. We had lunch, listened to the safety & rules talk, then drew for stand locations and set off for the bush. I actually drew one of the stands designated for taking a cull buck so I had James as my guide that afternoon. We both got to enjoy the quiet time and rare opportunity to get to hang out together. And right at dark, a seven point buck we’d been watching for an hour finally came in and gave me a chance at him. This was a shotgun and bow only hunt. I took it!
In addition to my buck, there were three nice 8 points, a few spikes and a couple of doe taken that day. Needless to say, there were a lot of stories flying around camp that night. Josh finally showed up with his grandfather in time to join us for dinner and to find out where he’d be going in the morning. I gave him a shotgun and some bullets and wished him luck. I’d already given him enough tools. It’d be up to him now.
When I returned from my hunt late the next morning, I heard that Josh had gotten a deer, a doe. That night over dinner, he told me how surprised he was that he could still do it. He also asked me when the next hunt was. There was a lot more said, of course, but those are the highlights. Some of it is regular deer camp talk, and some is how to survive a traumatic injury talk. Such is the norm in a group like this.
By the time it was over, two of our member’s kids had taken their first ever deer and one young lady had killed her first buck with a bow. Everybody had a great time in the field and kept our volunteer trackers and skinners busy all weekend. I’m thankful that everyone stayed safe and that so many people came together to help us make this hunt happen. I know some of our guys look forward to this one hunt all year long because it’s one of the few opportunities they have to get out.
Thanks again and see you all next year! Until then, good hunting.
great its not a failure as long as you try. keep it up