Kids With Disabilities Bag Their First Deer

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Clayhill Hunting Club is known for its rich legacy of passing down deer hunting to the younger generation and promoting the importance of providing healthy food for their families. For more than a decade, the club has been mentoring children from the United Special Sportsman Alliance (USSA) and sharing their love for hunting with them.

Angela, the mother of 10-year-old Noah, shared that her son thought they were going to the dentist. However, the deer hunt was a huge surprise for him when they arrived at Clayhill. Everyone at the place warmly welcomed them and even arranged for a track chair for Noah. Later, another family arrived, and Noah had the opportunity to meet another child with Spinal Bifida.

Kimberly was excited to learn about an opportunity for her 11-year-old son, Chris, and 12-year-old daughter, Lorissa, to go on their first hunt. Chris had always wanted to go hunting, but they didn’t have a suitable place for him to do so. His grandpa had planned to be his first ‘hunting buddy’ and had given him a pellet rifle, but unfortunately, he became ill and passed away. Chris was disappointed that he couldn’t go hunting with his grandpa as they had planned.

Before the hunt, all the children participated in target practice with their mentors, and to everyone’s surprise, Noah managed to hit the closest to the bullseye on his first attempt at shooting. Later, around 4:00 pm, the kids and mentors went to their hunting blinds while the parents waited for them back at camp.

Chris and his mentor, Bryant Vandiford, sat patiently and watched as a doe emerged in a field out front of the blind. Chris said, “When I first saw the deer, I felt both excited and nervous. Bryant got the gun set up, and I looked through the scope, got it in the crosshairs, and gently pulled the trigger. Then it ran it a bit and dropped. We gave each other a high five. He told me I did a great job.” With the stand stirred up, they moved to a new blind, and a nice buck soon appeared. Unfortunately, Chris got buck fever, and the cautious buck didn’t stay long and trotted back into the woods.

Chris returned to camp with a beaming smile and exclaimed, “Grandpa would have been so proud I got my deer!” His mother was overjoyed and even shed tears of happiness for her son.

Kimberly was a little apprehensive about Lorissa going on her first hunt. However, after seeing her bond with her experienced guide, Kaila Rouse, Kimberly felt at ease. During the hunt, Lorissa successfully shot a spike and a button buck. Kimberly said, “When they returned with the two deer, I told her how proud we were of her, and she said, “Thank you,” while she stood by her deer and smiled while everyone took pictures.

Lorissa exclaimed joyfully, “I had an amazing time deer hunting and would love to do it again. I felt excited and happy to have got two deer. Kaila was really nice and helpful, too.”

Noah said, “My mentor Doug gave me a camouflage net that covered my entire face except my eyes because I had to see the deer when it was time to shoot. I was very quiet in the blind, as quiet as a turtle.” Two does suddenly emerge into the open field, bringing the serene landscape to life. Noah’s excitement turned into nervousness when he got ready to shoot. The crack of the rifle was pretty loud, so Doug covered his ears. Noah expressed, “When my deer went down, he cheered and said, ‘Good job! I’m proud of you and all that good stuff! Then we drove in Doug’s truck to see it, and Doug carried me over, set me beside the doe, and took my picture.”

Angela shared that the best part of the hunt was seeing the joy on Noah’s face when he and Doug arrived back at camp with a deer in the back of their truck. Noah was grinning from ear to ear, and Doug was just as excited. Chris congratulated Noah and gave him a high five for getting his deer, and both boys had been cheering each other on to bag a deer. Then Doug took the blood and dabbed it on Noah’s forehead in the ritual that initiates newcomers to the hunting ranks!

Kimberly said with emotion, “The most impactful thing about the experience was the compassion shown to our entire family, not just our kids. The staff went out of their way to ensure that we all had a great time, and they were especially attentive to the kids, taking them to spots where they knew there were deer. The way they treated us was truly amazing, and it felt like a reunion with people we didn’t even know.”

Angela expressed, “Noah got to experience what it’s like to be a true deer hunter. It was an all-around excellent experience. After meeting his mentors, all my worries about the hunt were gone. It has a significant impact on children with disabilities, knowing people care about them and there are hunting trips available for them.”

Thanks to Grady White Boats, Jack Allen Farms, WAC Corporation, Sumrell Sausage, Jessica’s Gun Shop, and USSA donors for their financial support.

Congratulations to Lorissa, Chris, and Noah for successfully getting their first deer and creating unforgettable memories while sharing the experience with their mentors. Additionally, a big shout out to Gina Vandiford and the Clayhill Hunting Club for their participation in facilitating another fantastic hunt. God bless!

If you are interested in getting involved or know of a deserving child or veteran, don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected].