Big Hearts Form a Beautiful Community for Special Hunters

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United Special Sportsmen Alliance (USSA) hosted the 21st annual Illinois Dream Hunt from October 6th to 8th near Harrisburg. Twenty special young hunters and their parents, mentors, landowners, and volunteers gathered together, forming a beautiful community.

Jill had three sons, Griffin (13), Steven (14), and Nathan (15), who attended the deer hunt. They arrived early on Friday afternoon and were greeted by mentors who taught the boys gun safety and allowed them to shoot rifles and shotguns. Each mentor was a perfect fit for Jill’s sons, and everyone was incredibly kind and hospitable. Nathan bagged an 8-point buck, while Griffin got a nice doe.

Antonio shared that Drew (12) enjoyed spending time with the other kids and having fun. For Austin (14), it was his first deer hunt, and he was initially anxious. However, their mentor gave him much information on deer hunting, including their territory markings and behavior. Austin became more confident in understanding the preparation and hunting procedures as the hunt progressed. Ultimately, he felt much more comfortable and capable as a hunter. Drew and Austin had a successful hunt, with Austin getting an 8-point buck and Drew taking a nice doe.

Heather’s daughters, Zoey (13) and Abigail (15), were deer hunting for the first time. Abigail’s mentor kindly shared, “My little huntress created unforgettable memories by harvesting her very first deer on Saturday morning. Her smile was priceless, and the deer was a bonus.” Although Zoey’s morning hunting was unsuccessful, she got a 7-point buck later that evening.

Ben’s 11-year-old nephew, Cannon, enjoyed spending time with other children as much as he loved hunting. Although Cannon had some prior hunting experience, he learned a great deal from his mentor during the hunt, which helped him gain more knowledge and experience. As a result, he successfully bagged a nice 6-point buck.

Kevin’s 16-year-old son, Gunner, who has Down Syndrome, successfully got a doe from approximately 90 yards away on Saturday night. Kevin enjoyed watching Gunner make friends with everyone, including other kids, parents, and mentors. On Sunday night, Gunner enjoyed singing and dancing along with the live entertainment. He even took charge of the bow trailer, ensured everyone was safe, and listened to his instructions.

Kenzie and her family embarked on a journey of nearly ten hours to arrive at the hunting camp. Their efforts paid off when Ryan and his friend Hunter, both 13 years old, bagged a nice-sized doe. They enjoyed meeting new people and were pleased with the warm hospitality they received.

Kelly shared that his sons, Kamden (13) and Aiden (14), thoroughly enjoyed their time during the event- from staying at camp and being in their hunting blinds to bagging their does. “They talked about their hunting trip and how much fun they had the whole way home. I don’t think I have ever seen them smile so big. They both said they were very thankful for this experience.”

Kathy’s grandsons Dawson (10) and Reed (17) had a great time on their hunts. Reed successfully bagged a nice doe with the help of his mentor while they had to track down Dawson’s 5-point buck, which they eventually found around 12:15 a.m. Despite being advised to stay back, Dawson insisted on continuing the hunt. After they found Dawson’s deer, he fell asleep on their way back to the camp.

According to Dustin, his sons Branson (9) and Eli (12) enjoyed being in the woods and talking with their mentors and other children. Every time someone brought in a deer, there was a sense of excitement and anticipation to see whether it was a buck or a doe. According to their father, the two boys were equally as thrilled about harvesting a doe as they would have been for a massive buck.

Antonio added, “We had a wonderful time and memories that will last a lifetime. I told my kids about how these hunts are much better than going to any theme park. Everything is an attempt to simulate real things, but nothing is more real than hunting.”

In all, the kids bagged five bucks, and eleven does. A huge shout-out to all the USSA hunters and mentors for their excellent work! May the beautiful memories of your hunt live on for a long time.

We thank the mentors, landowners, and volunteers for their hard work and dedication and Camp Oxford Youth Camp for graciously donating room and board.

We are grateful for USSA’s donors’ and local sponsors’ ongoing financial support. We extend our heartfelt thanks to Mike Stone, his family, and the IL Dream Hunt Committee for their unwavering commitment to the USSA’s mission of providing free outdoor accessibility to all. God bless!

If you would like your child to participate in the 2024 Illinois Dream Hunt, please complete an application on our website.