For some people with physical limitations, being able to participate in hunting season is a distant memory. But thanks to the Angelina and Sabine national forests employees and retired agency volunteers in East Texas, a group of local hunters have an opportunity to create new memories each December as part of an annual two-day hunt.
“For the past five years, we’ve enjoyed being a part of the Angelina Wheelin’ Sportsman hunt for deer and hogs,” said Jason Engle, a district wildlife biologist for the Angelina National Forest who leads the event planning efforts for the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas. “We want to ensure these eager hunters enjoy a great hunting experience, and we’re here to help them enjoy their national forests.”
The hunt is on more than 7,000 acres of land including portions of the Angelina, the Stephen F. Austin Experimental Forest, Texas Parks & Wildlife Alazan Wilderness Management Area, and private land owned by Simon Winston.
“We carefully plan where to position each hunter blind,” Engle added. “It’s more complicated when dealing with hunters who have varying disabilities so we’re trying to make sure the sites will be accessible for each hunter.”
Hunter Emily Penn beamed as she posed with her nine-point buck for a photo. Penn, who uses a walker, was carried to the deer blind on her brother’s back.
“Not only was I the only girl hunter who shot a buck, but I had the pleasure to meet so many wonderful people with physical disabilities who loved hunting and the outdoors at this event,” she said. “The volunteers were all gracious with their time and expertise. They were always ready to help me. What an incredible experience I had … I will be back next year!”
Penn and 23 other hunters participated in the event, which included instruction, transportation and plenty of food during breaks for meals. There were three opportunities for hunts, a wild game dinner and a lunch. For the program, now in its fifth year, enthusiastic supporters and many local businesses partner with the Forest Service by donating food, door prizes and other items.
National Forests and Grasslands in Texas hosts the event in partnership with the Pineywoods, Gulf Coast and April AWOL chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Texas Parks and Wildlife.