As part of the NWTF Wheelin’ Sportsmen program, over 25 individuals – including volunteers and disabled veterans – descended upon the Long Cane Ranger District of the Sumter National Forest in South Carolina to enjoy the opening day of the state’s dove season.
Over the years, the USDA Forest Service has facilitated NWTF events in the national forest, and this year was no different.
“From May until the day before the hunt, the Forest Service planted, maintained and prepared the field for our opening-day hunt on Saturday afternoon,” said Gary Peters, NWTF South Carolina Wheelin Sportsmen coordinator. “Almost all of the 60-acre dove field was planted with wheat, millet, sesame or sunflower, all preferred dove foods.”
Likewise, leading up to the event, the NWTF State Chapter, as well as the local NWTF Foothills and Neil Gobbler Cost chapters, combined resources and began recruiting hunters from across the state to the event, thanks to the help of like-minded organizations, like The Fallen Outdoors, Greenwood County Veterans Affairs and Waymaker Off-Road Wheel Chairs.
“Seeing everyone from all these organizations working together to make this experience a good one for our mobility impaired hunters was simply amazing,” said Billie McCarter, NWTF South Carolina State Chapter board member.
With a well-maintained dove field and a group of volunteers and hunters, the scene was set for a picture-perfect opening day of a beloved end-of-summer tradition.
“One hunter shot all of his allotted 50 shells [max two boxes per hunter on public fields]; he got two doves and had a huge smile,” said Peters. “The group as a whole bagged approximately 20 doves.”
For each bird harvested, hunters donated a wing to the annual population monitoring program conducted by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Small Game Program.
After packing up all the gear, hunters and volunteers shared fellowship, eating dinner in the parking area and telling stories as they cooled off in the sun-setting shade.
The NWTF Anderson County Chapter donated two memberships to any hunter who was not a current member of the NWTF. As the hunters departed, they were already looking forward to their next hunt.
The Wheelin’ Sportsmen program began in October 2000 as the NWTF recognized the need to help people with mobility impairments enjoy the outdoors by participating in hunting and shooting sports.
Wheelin’ Sportsmen events provide participants an opportunity they may not be able to have on their own due to the lack of hunting land access, lack of knowledge of how to return to the field after an injury or lack of necessary assistance.
Oftentimes the knowledge and experience gained at an NWTF Wheelin' Sportsmen event allows the participants to continue hunting on their own throughout the year.