Wisconsin finds success with season for disabled hunters

Posted: Thursday, May 25, 2000

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- In this current age of environmental awareness, plots, plans, policies and programs are frequently embraced for a while only to be discarded later, as quickly and easily as snakes shed skin.

It is, one suspects, a sign of the times more than anything else.

The other side of that coin, however, displays paragons of lasting quality.

Wisconsin's special deer season for disabled hunters is one such program.

It was a decade ago, 1990 to be exact, when the Department of Natural Resources endorsed a plan to offer people with physical or visual disabilities an opportunity to hunt deer under safe and climatically mild conditions that included, and preserved, the natural integrity of the regular deer hunting season.

Like most conservation programs, this hunt has been refined, smoothed and polished down through the years. It is now regarded as one of the best programs of its kind in the country.

For certain, it does a turn for people who are without those physical capabilities that the rest of us take for granted. It represents a ''helping hand'' in the most positive meaning of that term.

Tom Hauge, wildlife director for the DNR, estimates there are between 200 and 300 disabled hunters in the state who take part in the program at various times. Special deer hunts are made available for them with the help of about 40 landowner/sponsors who are the guiding lights behind the plan.

These landowner/sponsors make available tracts of property 100 acres or more in size that accommodate anywhere from two or three individuals to groups of 20 gunners. The aim is to tailor each hunt toward the needs of the specific individuals involved.

From the beginning 10 years ago, I have used this space to applaud the program. I do so again now, this day. Especially this day.

Until a deer season came along in the recent past when I was unable to take part, I took my personal participation in deer hunting as a given. I saw it as my right. It was, I figured, my due. No more. No less.

That was dumb thinking, let me tell you. Dumb! Dumb!

I understand clearly now that hunting, for all of us, is a privilege.

And that is chief among the reasons why I cheer as loudly as I can, for the disabled deer hunter season, those insightful men and women who came up with the idea in the first place and those who, today, perpetuate it.

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