Lake Shelbyville and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources celebrated the 30th year for the Deer Hunt for People with Disabilities and Wounded Warriors.
The hunt was held Nov. 22 – 24. It’s sponsored by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Wolf Creek State Park. Twenty-four hunters took part this year. Participants have enjoyed morning and afternoon hunts for 30 years from ground blinds and elevated stands, enjoyed catered meals, and free lodging. Over the past five years, average success rates per year are near 70 percent.
“Every year we have 25 permits and a stand by list. This year 24 people actually hunted,” said Cory Donnel of the US Army Corps of Engineers. “Most of the hunters are between the ages of 40 and 70.”
Participants must possess a state-issued disabled person identification card or a disabled veteran identification card. This year, 10 spots were held for Wounded Warriors. The hunt is always during firearm deer season.
“We offer housing for the hunters at Okaw Bluff,” Donnel said. “They can come in at noon on Thursday. Thursday night we have a meal and an orientation. They hunt on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.”
Blinds were set up at Opossum Creek, Coon Creek, Lone Point, Wilborn Creek, Whitley Creek, Litia Springs and Wolf Creek.
“We set the blinds in safe locations, shooting in safe directions in a controlled environment,” Donnel said. “The roads and the campsites lend themselves to being used for a hunt for people with mobility restrictions.”
“We have hats made up and awarded to the hunter who shot the first deer of the hunt, the smallest deer, the largest doe and the largest buck,” Donnel said. “They a lot of fun with that.”
Donnel stressed his appreciation for the volunteers who help with the hunt. he also said that they never have enough volunteers.
“Without the help of the Whitetails Unlimited Chapter Area 51, the Friends of Lake Shelbyville, the IDNR and numerous volunteers this event would not be possible,” Donnel said. “The volunteers are up at 5 a.m. every morning he days of the hunt and may get done about 7 of 8 p.m. at night. They put in 15-16 hour days. It is not possible without them.”
Last year, volunteers performed nearly 300 hours of service to help make the hunt a successful experience for individuals that might not get this type of hunting opportunity anywhere else. Some of the tasks carried out by volunteers included, getting hunters to and from their blinds, carrying the hunter’s gear, handling harvested deer, and setting up meals.
“The volunteers do all those things so that the hunters can maximize their time out there in the blinds,” Donnel said. “That way they can help us manage the deer population in the park, where we can’t allow the public to hunt.”
The 24 hunters harvested 13 deer this year, according to Donnel.
“This year the 1st firearm season fell late and I think it made for a slower hunt,” Donnel said. “The weather Saturday was rough with the rain and the wind. We normally get more deer.”
For further information on this event, or if you would like to volunteer for this event, please contact Park Ranger Taylor Finks at (217)774-3951 Ext. 7028 or via email Taylor.M.Finks@usace.army.mil.