NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A milestone was hit by the Angelina Wheelin’ Sportsman Friday. The organization serves hunters with disabilities. The first hunt had nine hunters. This tenth-year hunt has 25.
It was a cold, rainy, afternoon - perfect weather for the deer blind. However, you have to be in the right frame of mind.
“Especially like an event like this,” said Tracy Riley. “Great positivity.”
Riley is excited. It's been several years since her last hunt.
“I’m a paraplegic. T-12. Paralyzed from the waist down," Riley said. "I had a car wreck in 2015.”
Each hunter has their own story of disability. The Angelina Wheelin’ Sportman will make sure this day that hunting will be their primary tale.
They talk about hunts in other parts of the state. One hunter even went to Wyoming. Another hunter shares stories about no matter how good the rain suit is, you get wet.
Volunteers serve as guides. Some hunters are provided handicap-accessible stands. Others get donated hunts on private properties. Some will get a deer. Others won’t.
It doesn't matter. They all come away with a prize.
“Mainly the camaraderie with everybody,” said Jeremy Varnado. “That’s why I like coming the most. Look around at the faces around here and you can tell how happy everybody is.”
Milton Pitts hasn't been hunting for 30 years. This year's hunt will be special.
“My grandson is 19 and a freshman at Stephen F. Austin, and I never got to take him hunting, so this is my opportunity to do that," Pitts said.
He came in on a walker, but he was there.
The hunt is made possible through a combined effort of federal and state agencies. Private organizations and landowners help out, too.
“I couldn’t tell you how good these these ladies, these men are that help put this on,” said Mike Waller. “I’ll keep coming as long as long as they have it.”
Hunters are meeting up with guides at 4:30 in the morning. They’ll be in the stands by sunrise. Anyone interested in applying for next year’s hunt needs to contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or the U.S. Forest Service in Lufkin for information on the application process.