ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) – Disabled hunters were given a shot at taking home some big game Saturday at the Angelina National Forest.
The National Turkey Federation's Wheelin' Sportsmen program and the U.S. Forest Service paired volunteers with disabled hunters for an unforgettable experience.
Thursday was the first time Stacey Dowdy has hunted in a wheelchair.
"I've been hunting for 40 years, but I haven't hunted in six years since I had an accident," said Dowdy.
It's a story familiar to Robbie Hopkins.
"I've been hunting ever since I was 5 years old and I hunted up until 12 years ago when I was in a motorcycle wreck," said Hopkins.
"I've had several medical problems and I lost my desire to hunt," explained disabled hunter David Haston.
However, some never even got the chance to start hunting.
"I've always been wanting to go since I was little and it's wonderful," said disabled hunter Eric Hardin.
The volunteers made it happen because they can't imagine a life without hunting.
"I live the entire year, seems like, for the fall...to lose that opportunity would be terrible," said Regional Director for the National Wild Turkey Federation Shawn Roberts. "It would be [terrible] to live on Earth and not be able to do that."
"To help them experience the same things that I got to experience growing up is pretty important to me," said Alan Shadow with the Natural Resource Conservation Service and East Texas Plant Material Center.
"Even if they don't get a deer, I think they enjoy the opportunity to get out in the woods," said Wildlife Biologist for Angelina and Sabine National Forest Jason Engle.
However, Hopkins made the drive from South Carolina and it did paid off. He's going home with a buck.
"It's a dream that has come true," said Hopkins.
"To see the rewards that they get out of it, from that experience is something that I will never forget," said Dale Bounds with the Pineywoods Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
"It's just like being able to live again," said Dowdy.
"I've always heard everything is bigger in Texas," smiled Hopkins. "So far it's true."
If you are interested in volunteering for the event, contact the National Wild Turkey Federation or the U.S. Forest Service.