Dec. 12, 2018
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
CASSCOE - Four mobility-impaired Arkansas hunters were able to fill their deer tags last weekend, thanks to a special hunt provided by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation and the Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge.
The hunt took place at the Potlatch Conservation Education Center at Cook’s Lake in Casscoe. It included two-and-a-half days of deer hunting, lodging and meals. This is one of only two hunting opportunities on this 1,850-acre portion of the refuge each year, with the first being a draw youth hunt.
“The hunt offers an ability to manage the deer herd on this area and lets us offer something special to hunters who draw,” said Wil Hafner, AGFC education program specialist at the center. “It really is a special place, and these opportunities let us share it with hunters as much as we share it with anglers and school groups throughout the rest of the year.”
The process began in August, when the refuge opened an application period for the three-day hunt. Only hunters with severely impaired mobility were eligible to qualify for the hunt. Applications were accepted until Sept. 1 and five applicants were randomly chosen by refuge staff.
“Unfortunately, we were notified that one of the hunters would not be able to attend for health reasons and did not have enough time to contact an alternate,” Hafner said. “But we had a great time with the four hunters who arrived on Friday.”
All participants were given an orientation on Friday about the regulations of the hunt and the amenities that would be provided.
“We scouted ahead of time and had some really good spots picked out for stand locations,” Hafner said. “The hunters could choose from locations that had a hydraulic lift stand, a ground blind or a small shooting house that stood about 6 feet off the ground.”
After orientation, participants were taken to their stands for the first evening of the hunt, and the pace was set very quickly.
“We were a little worried because the deer activity has not been very high in the last few months,” Hafner said. “But about two weeks ago, the deer really started to move. On the first night of the hunt, we dropped one hunter off at his stand at 1:30 p.m. We heard him shoot at 2, and he called, confirming he had taken a buck. He asked to stay to see if he could get a doe that night as well. By the end of the first evening he was able to get his doe as well. It’s the fastest anyone here can remember one of the participants filling his limit.”
All hunters who participated were able to at least fill one of their tags, despite heavy rains slowing things down on the second day of the hunt.
In between hunts, participants were able to enjoy the center’s hospitality and excellent food, courtesy of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation.
“This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; according to the hunt’s regulations a hunter can only participate once,” Hafner said. “So we really try to make sure it produces the kind of memories that will last a lifetime.”
Visit www.agfc.com/cookslake for more information about the center and opportunities it provides.