Northern Michigan outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists are partnering to increase opportunities for wounded veterans and handicapped individuals to enjoy fall hunting.
The North Country Sportsman’s Club (NCSC), the Tip of the Mitt Quality Deer Management Association (TOMQDMA), the Little Traverse Conservancy (LTC) and Brave Hearts Estate are joining forces this fall for Michigan’s special Independence Hunt which runs from Oct. 18-22.
The Independence Hunt is reserved for Veterans with 100-percent disability or rated as individually unemployable by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
In addition, hunters who possess a permit to hunt from a standing vehicle or to hunt using a laser-sighting devise, and hunters who are legally blind may also participate.
The partnership grew out of the fact that the two clubs have already been facilitating the hunt, but have been limited by their access to enough land.
The Independence Hunt is prohibited on state or county lands, yet allowed on private lands.
Several generous landowners have allowed handicapped hunters to use their properties for the Independence Hunt, yet the number of hunters exceeds the available properties.
This is where LTC can offer assistance because many of the non-profit organization’s nature preserves are open for hunting.
Kieran Fleming, executive director at LTC explained, “We are going to make special accommodations where appropriate to facilitate better access for those Independence Hunt hunters using Conservancy lands for this unique opportunity.”
The other primary need identified by the partnership is to find more guides for the disabled veterans.
Volunteers through the two clubs have served as personal guides for many hunters over the last several years.
“Many of our hunters have special needs, such as being able to hunt from a wheel chair or assistance getting to and from the hunting location,” said Jim Rummer, president of TOMQDMA. “We do all we can to provide for every level of need.” However, this year the group has set a goal of facilitating as many as 20 hunters in Emmet, Cheboygan, and Charlevoix counties and they are seeking a few more volunteers for the Cheboygan county area.”
“Essentially, we need a few more people to help us scout and set up a location with a portable hunting blind,” explained Jay Winchell, president of the NCSC.
“Then the guide will accompany the hunter over the course of the weekend, helping them set up and staying with them through the hunt so they will have help with mobility and—hopefully—retrieving a deer!”
Through this partnership, several of the hunters for the Independence Hunt will stay at the Brave Hearts Estate northwest of Pellston, where they are provided a place to sleep, meals, and a friendly deer camp environment.
“We try to provide an opportunity for these fine men and women who have served our country to do what so many others can do without assistance,” said Paula Brown from the Brave Hearts Estate.
The NCSC members and volunteers also provide meals for the hunters not staying at Brave Hearts Estate.
The group is also seeking charitable contributions to invest in large ground blinds that can accommodate a wheelchair and a guide, the cost of meat processing, and to help cover the cost of meals.
The Little Traverse Conservancy will act as the fiduciary for the group, making it easy to donate in one location. For donations, please call (231) 347-0991.
If you are interested in donating to this effort, call the LTC office at 347-0991 or go to landtrust.org.
If you are an experienced hunter and interested in serving as a guide in Cheboygan county, please contact Jay Winchell at (231) 268-9941.