Organization helps handicapped hunters

Published 6:40 pm Friday, December 1, 2017

Friday afternoon and all day Saturday there will be 27 special hunters in the woods throughout Warren County doing their best to kill a whitetail deer.

This weekend marks the third annual handicap hunt hosted by the west Mississippi chapter of Hope Outdoors, and 27 disabled hunters will be spending the weekend in the woods enjoying deer season.

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“Anybody with a disability,” chapter director Randy Rippy said of who is eligible. “That is one of the things we loved about Hope Outdoors, because our son was too old for youth hunts. There are no age limits on anything. Last year we had a 5 year old and a 72 year old. Any type of disability, critical illnesses, debilitating illnesses, they are all eligible. There is a wide variety.”

The hunters include participants from throughout Mississippi and eight who made the trip from out of state to participate.

“This actually is my first year here. I have a brother who has been here before and he had good things to say so I came over to check it out,” Chris Alford, who made the trip for Texarkana, Texas, said. “We may try to start a chapter in Texas where I’m from.”

Twenty-five local landowners volunteered the use of their land and served as guides to make the hunt possible. The club, with help from local churches and donations, provides all the meals and pays for hotels for the hunters who come to participate.

“The first year we decided we would try to do 15 hunters and wound up with 17,” Rippy said. “The next year we said we could do 20 and we did 22. This year we said 25 and we are at 27 so just steady growing. We’ve gotten more and more donors and landowners who have helped with this.”

Rippy said last year the hunters killed 14 deer despite rainy conditions all weekend. The deer are processed for free and hunters are able to take home the meat from their kills.

“The importance of being able to do things like this, if not we just sit home and there is nothing for us,” Alford said. “By having the help that is available here, you are able to go out and conquer things you are limited with your disability. Having these organized times not only makes it possible, it makes it a lot safer.”

The hunters and their guides met at Bovina Baptist Church Friday afternoon for lunch and fellowship before heading out to the woods for a hunt and then returning to the church for dinner.

Hunters then work with their guides to determine when they want to hunt Saturday and return to the church for lunch and dinner, which both include fellowship periods. 

“It is great and somebody can go out hunting for the first time or be a professional and everybody is treated the same,” Emily Hickman, who traveled from Saucier to hunt, said. “The fellowship is really great here and everybody knows each other instantly it seems.”