Missouri Deer Hunting: Opportunity for All

Published on: Jun. 17, 2014

Missouri Deer Hunting: Opportunity for All

By Sarah Kendrick

Each year, deer hunters with disabilities and volunteers from across the state reunite to share laughs, stories, and hunt deer.

I arrived at the Mark Twain Lake Disabled Hunt on a frigid November morning prepared to have my faith restored in humanity. It may sound t dramatic to be true, but having attended the hunt the previous five years, I knew what I was in for: a day of smiles, stories, and one happy deer camp. Upon arrival, I was promptly dispatched to a holding tent. Volunteers, layered in coveralls and hunter orange, shivered around a space heater with hands jammed in pockets. They waited for a telltale rifle shot.

A few hundred yards away, James Dean, of Union, and his son and hunting buddy, James Dean II, were also shivering in a blind, waiting for a chance to take that rifle shot and harvest a deer. However, when I joined them I was met with warm smiles and a lot of enthusiasm.

“I found out about this hunt through a Mark Twain Lake brochure,” said Dean. “I was walking with a cane then, and I knew it was only a matter of time.” Dean was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997 and is now in a wheelchair. He has participated in the Mark Twain Lake Disabled Hunt every year since 2004.

“It’s just been amazing. I have M.S., and I don’t want to burden anyone taking me hunting. I don’t get a deer every year, but if I see deer, it’s a bonus.”

Mark Twain Lake Disabled Hunt

The Mark Twain Lake Disabled Hunt is the longest-running hunt of its kind in the state. It is hosted and administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and hundreds of volunteers. Hunters are transported to accessible deer blinds by a team of volunteers and picked up when they are ready to return to camp, or when they harvest a deer.

Participants and volunteers are provided with meals and the option to sleep inside the group campground’s canvas-sided pavilion, which features a massive stone fireplace at its center. The fireplace houses a roaring, cheerful fire all weekend, and the pavilion serves as the hunt’s headquarters — a warm area where the hunts are organized, stories are told, and reunions shared. Nearly all disabled hunts in the state are restricted to participants who require the use of a wheelchair, but the Mark Twain

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