East Central Ohio QDMA (Quality Deer Management Association) Youth Hunt
Imagine: a group of farmers, landowners, hunters and numerous family members planning year-round for a deer hunt in Holmes and neighboring Coshocton County. And not just any deer hunt, but one that is very special to young, first-time hunters. The East Central Ohio QDMA board members select this group of youth hunters, regardless of physical or mental ability. In most cases the young first-timers must submit an essay prior to being considered for the hunt.
Many of the people associated with this branch of the QDMA have been involved with this hunt for many, many years as guides, cameramen, landowners and/or helpers. Names like Moses, Andy, Tommy, Brian, Curt, Mark, David, Jeremy and the Ohio DNR are synonymous with this well-planned, successful event. Some, in fact, have been involved in some way since the very first hunt in 2007 – then named The Blind Turtle Beginnings, originally held in rural Muskingum County.
Their behind the scenes preparations are second to none. The branch, through fundraisers and donations outfits each hunter with all of the clothing, footwear and supplies needed for their first hunt. This also includes supplying a hearty, rib-sticking lunch cooked over an open fire. Then, each hunter is able to stock up on plenty of snacks and drinks to take to the designated hunting blinds.
The morning of the hunt starts at the rally location that always has plenty of outdoor or indoor (if needed) space at someone’s farm for everyone involved. Then there are the people that take time out of their own hunting/work schedules to teach classes on shot placement, blood trailing and various other hunt-related topics including the proper use and handling of the TenPoint and Wicked Ridge crossbows. The classes are the perfect lead-in to the afternoon’s hunt.
Late morning and after lunch, each youth gets to know both the guide and cameraman that will accompany them to the field. This is the time dedicated to getting everyone comfortable with the crossbow and any adaptive equipment the youth may need. Each youth and guide work closely as a team through the shooting & sighting-in process and stay on the range until both of them are completely confident with the results. The parents, and some siblings, watch everything intently and anxiously wait for the afternoon hunt.
Around mid-afternoon, each group checks, double-checks and triple checks all of their equipment. Phone numbers for the landowner and/or tracker(s) are shared with each group prior to heading out to their blinds. Everyone’s anticipation level is very high and contagious!
Every hunt hosted by this fine organization has been exciting, but none quite like the 2016 hunt! 13 youth hunters participated. Out of this group, almost half of the youth hunters had physical and/or mental disabilities, but that didn’t stop them. Two hunters were wheelchair bound and some of them were visually impaired. One hunter in particular, David Miller, is blind - yes, 100% blind from birth!
David was on a mission to harvest a deer, and the 2016 hunt was his third attempt. Equipped with the Stealth FX4 crossbow and a 2nd scope, this trio was about to make the unthinkable happen!
David’s setup was phenomenal! An elevated box blind situated on a wood-line, nestled between food plots and cornfields, was absolutely perfect. For a sighted person, that is.
His guide, Barb Terry from TenPoint Crossbow Technologies (Customer Relations/Training/Education), and cameraman Jeremy Erb, accompanied David that evening. All three settled in and waited for the action to begin.
Normally David has a really good internal clock and is able to judge the time of day. This afternoon, the time seemed to crawl at a snail’s pace and he kept thinking the clock was moving faster than it really was – he was ready for that “magic time” before dusk when the deer would appear. David and his guide spent quite a bit of time laughing, giggling and quietly talking about George Strait songs during the long wait.
Finally the time had come. Jeremy signaled to the guide that a deer was walking on the outer edge of the cornfield. To keep him calm, David was told that he was going to practice getting ready for a shot. As the deer inched ever closer to the corn pile, David executed all of his “practice” steps perfectly! Barb, sighting thru the 2nd scope, then told David to squeeze the trigger – not just once but three times, in his mind, he was after all “practicing”!
The broadhead tipped arrow hit the broadside deer perfectly, a double-lung shot! The term “elation” can’t begin to describe the emotions these hunters felt after the shot. David couldn’t see a thing, but the guide and cameraman assured him that he made an amazing shot.
Within minutes the “successful hunt” call went out to the landowner, the doe was recovered, and the group headed back to the rally location. With the deer loaded in the back of the truck, the trio headed back to greet the crowd. As they pulled in, everyone was cheering for David. Recounting the story of his amazing hunt, with lots of laughter and excitement, David and his guide etched a memory that would last a lifetime.
David’s experience was pure excitement – yes, but the other 12 hunters joined him on the hunt that day also. Amazingly, every one of the other hunters harvested deer that evening! This was the largest number of hunters ever hosted by the East Central Ohio QDMA Branch and every hunter harvested a deer. 13 for 13 – not a bad day of hunting! Apparently the number 13 isn’t always unlucky!