plenty of deer roaming in the rugged, wooded hills. But there’s also another advantage: Hunters and volunteers use Scout cabins for sleeping, a mess kitchen for meals and the main office as a daytime rendezvous point.
Most of the time, though, the hunters are tromping in the outdoors and enjoying all the deer camp trimmings. That includes shooting practice, which is held at the reservation’s firing range on the Friday eve of the youth season.
Fetlework Blitch, 11, of Nixa, sat down at a bench on the firing line and hefted a boltaction .243 rifle to her shoulder. The rifle and several others were provided for campers by the Conservation Department’s outdoor skills education program. Fetlework peered through the scope and then chambered a cartridge with help from Capps. After firing a few rounds, she was on target and ready for deer.
Her hearing difficulties have not limited Fetlework’s hunting abilities, said Vernon Blitch, her father. His daughter is adopted from Ethiopia. Fetlework has taken a wild turkey with a shotgun, and she is learning to shoot with archery equipment.
“I like seeing the animals, and I like being outdoors,” she said, “and I like to eat them.”
Good food and friends are a key component of this deer camp. A barbecue on Friday night was topped off with cherry and apple cobbler baked in Dutch ovens in the cook pit. Halloween treats and a bonfire add to the fun. Hunters, parents and guides gather around logs burning in a massive steel fire pit that includes the words “Missouri School for the Deaf.” The pit was donated by professional welder and hunt volunteer Wayne “Cuz” Hoenshell of Garden City.
“It’s the kids and seeing them so happy that makes us do this,” Hoenshell said.
Sign language is the norm for telling hunting stories and jokes at this deer camp. Each young hunter is accompanied by a parent or guardian, and they serve as signing interpreters if needed between hunters and guides.
Supporting Parents as Mentors
Deer camp is also a chance for parents to get outdoors with their child in a manner that many would not attempt without some extra support and guidance, said Karen Jones, who mentors young women hunters and helps organize the camp along with her husband, Craig.
“It’s more than just them getting a deer,” she said, “it’s the whole outdoor experience. This camp has evolved