The first time he watched someone with a disability take down an animal, Randy Dyer knew he wanted to see more. So after helping with a couple hunts last year, he and other members of the local Southwest Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) decided to branch out on their own.
On April 7-9 the group will host the inaugural Thunder in the Hills Handicapped Turkey Hunt, taking six Ohio residents and six others from out of the state on a weekend of hunting and camping. Four of the hunters will be Wounded Warriors and one will be a 14-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. They will be taking part in something called Wheelin’ Sportsmen, an NWTF program that provides people with disabilities opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
“I’ve always wanted to do it, it just took a while to get hooked up with the right people with the right connections,” said Dyer, president of the NWTF Southwest Ohio Chapter. “It’s just really neat to see them get out there and do something they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. It’s about someone giving them a chance, and they love it. You can’t get them out of the woods.”
Dyer and other chapter members helped with a similar turkey hunt last April and a deer hunt in October. The turkey hunt was hosted by Ohio Premier Trophy Outfitters and won the inaugural Hunt of the Year Award at the NWTF National Convention in Nashville, Tenn. last month.
“Seeing someone being able to actually take down an animal and just seeing the look on their face is priceless. It’s better than anything I ever saw,” said Dyer, a Highland County resident who is co-chairing the event with Greg Keeton, president of the Clinton County NWTF Chapter.
The weekend starts with a meet-and-greet on April 7, then hunting will take place April 8-9 at the Pike State Forest APV Area. The hunters will stay in cabins at Pike Lake State Park, and since state law only allows turkey hunting until noon, the state park is going to release 250 trout in Pike Lake so the hunters can fish later in the day.
A local taxidermist has agreed to mount the largest turkey killed.
Dyer said the Pike State Forest APV Area is being used thanks to park employee Brian Kelley.
“He heard about the other turkey hunt and called said, ‘What can I do?’ He said, ‘I’ve got 1,000 APV acres. Bring those guys in there if you want,’” Dyer said.
Dyer said he decided he wanted to help host a hunt for disabled hunters after hearing about similar events when he attended turkey banquets.
“I kept trying to find the right people to get hooked up with and I finally did,” he said. “I posted the hunts and then hunters just started calling. They’re still calling.”
Before the hunt, the NWTF Southwest Ohio Chapter will hold its annual banquet this Saturday at the AmVets Park on North Shore Drive in the Rocky Fork Lake area. It will feature Alex Rutledge, an outdoor celebrity who appears on the Outdoor Channel and is getting ready to start a show called “American Roots Outdoors.” The banquet is open to anyone. Doors open 5:30 p.m. Anyone wanting a ticket can contact Dyer at 937-205-7747.
There will be a couple raffles and all proceeds will be benefit the upcoming hunt.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.