Freedom Isn’t Free: Veteran’s Deer Hunt

Nine disabled veterans of the United States military services went deer hunting in Crawford County on Saturday, Dec. 1 thanks to planning efforts by the Crawford County Lions Club, Uniwattee Plantation, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and Georgia’s Wildlife Resources Division (WRD). A coupon for the hunt was published in the October and November issues of GON.

Festivities for the hunt began Friday evening, Nov. 30. All the hunters were treated to a barbecue dinner provided by the Lions Club. Additionally, the Lions Club gave each hunter a pack and outfit for the hunt donated by Academy Sports.

A drawing was held for a pistol that was donated by Andrew’s Reloads in Roberta. Tommy Clack of Mansfield was the winner.

After supper, Ed Tomberlin, Uniwatte’s owner, welcomed everyone and held a detailed safety meeting to discuss the rules for the hunt and answer any questions from the guests. The hunt was originally going to be a doe-only hunt, but Ed told the hunters to shoot whatever they wanted to. This made for some happy veterans. After the announcements were through, the hunters retreated to local motels. Rooms for the night were funded by the Lions Club.

After breakfast Saturday morning, everyone was taken to their stands. Ground blinds had been set up for hunters who were unable to climb. Several treestands had been placed on beautiful food plots for the few hunters who could climb.

By mid-morning several shots had been heard, but the only successful hunter was Dean Collins from Lingwood, Fla. who shot a nice 5-point buck.

Chili was served for lunch, and Greg Brown with the NWTF gave each hunter a knife and membership to the NWTF. Greg then held a drawing for a shotgun, and the lucky winner was Nicholas McNeil from Daytona Beach, Fla. Nicholas, who is legally blind, but can still see well enough to hunt, was invited to participate in the hunt.

Rocky Bales with Academy Sports gave everyone T-shirts and hats, and DNR Law-enforcement Officer Kevin Joyce made excellent efforts to make sure everyone was safe and understood the state and local rules for the hunt. Capt. Barry Fincher and Cpl. Robert Stillwell were also there for support.

Before the afternoon hunt, several of the veterans agreed to swap stands, so they could enjoy a different location.

As darkness fell, we started seeing headlights from the golf carts as they returned to Uniwattee’s lodge. These golf carts had been donated by Mike’s Golf Carts in Perry. One by one each hunter or team arrived tired but satisfied with their efforts. Nobody killed a deer that afternoon, but everyone still got to experience the excitement of the hunt.

Dennis Lewis, host of “Southern Woods n’ Water” TV show, had tried to film a couple of the hunts but was unable to get any usable footage. He also had given each hunter a scent pack for the hunt.

Many thanks to all the volunteers and to the other landowners, Sonny Abercrombie, Bo and Dean Barefield and Glynn Barnes who opened their property for the hunt as needed.

A special thank you to Ed Tomberlin at Uniwattee Plantation for his southern hospitality and the on-going efforts to ensure everyone was safe and having a good time. Ed ended the day by giving each hunter venison he had already processed and thanked them for coming.

The event coordinator, Bob Paschal, with the Crawford County Lions Club, said he has wanted to do something like this for years and was overjoyed at the number of volunteers who gave their time and the combined support that was provided by so many organizations, businesses and individuals to make this event a success. The weather was perfect, the property was beautiful and everyone had a memorable time.

Thanks to all the veterans, past and present. Without these men and women working hard to protect our country, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the wonderful freedoms we have.

The bag on Tommy Clack’s wheelchair said it all. It read, “Freedom Isn’t Free.”

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