Lions Club holds eighth annual deer hunt for physically challenged

Published 1:00 pm Saturday, January 20, 2024

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The Andalusia Lions Club held its annual Physically Challenged Deer Hunt for the eighth year under sunny skies at the South Alabama Gun Club Rifle Range on Friday, Jan. 19.

Hailey Leslie prepares to take her next shot as guide Joey Thornton helps direct her.

Dirk Price, an avid sportsman who is blind, organizes and coordinates the event each year. Activities began Friday at the rifle range on Fletcher Road off County Road 70.

“This is our sixth year with the Lions Club and the eighth year for the hunt. While the Lions Club sponsors it, we have many volunteers who come out and help. We have 18 physically challenged hunters this year. Each participant has his or her own unique disability and is paired with an able guide. We supply the little bit of extra help for volunteers to get them out where normally they couldn’t get out by themselves,” Price said.

Participants met their personal guide volunteers to practice, discuss safety rules, and determine the aid and assistance they would need through the weekend. Volunteers include avid outdoorsmen and veterans who played a key role in guiding the participants.

“We have a lot of people from all types of different backgrounds,” Price said.

According to Price, the event was previously held at Point A Lodge under the Physically Challenged Bowhunters of America.

“When the lodge folded, I had to find a new sponsor. I am in the Lions Club, and they graciously took it as one of their projects. I thrive on thanks and appreciation. I’m totally blind, but the other people get a lot out of the event. It makes you feel good to help somebody,” he said.

Lions Club President Mindy Barton added that the City of Andalusia offers assistance by providing the Coleman Center where the group meets.

“We provide a meal on Friday and have a recognition banquet on Saturday with wild game-cooked food. The Lions Club pays for hotel rooms and licenses and people to process deer for the participants if they choose to take it back home with them. You see the excitement on Saturday night after they have killed a deer, and everybody is excited for them. Most people would not have the opportunity to get out and hunt if it were not for these types of hunts. It’s amazing to see children that cannot walk or who are confined to a wheelchair have the opportunity to shoot a deer. We even had a girl who is blind and shot two deer last year,” Barton said.

Price said he reached out to a quadriplegic participant from Wyoming who had applied for 32 tags.

“I called him and asked him if he wanted to come to Alabama and go deer hunting. He was like, ‘Yeah,’ since they do not have to do tags here.”

Barton referred to a group of supporters who come together and support the Lions Club, Price, and the event each year.

“This is not a competition but more so an event where our hunters can come out and participate. This group of men in the community learns new ways and makes things happen to get these guys and girls with an opportunity to get a deer,” she said.

Many people behind the scenes help make the deer hunt possible.

“It’s a lot of work to get everything organized, but thankfully, I have a lot of support from volunteers and Lion members along with contributions from the community. There are several businesses, individuals, and church groups who donate money to offset the cost of the licenses, meals, and hotel rooms. We also have a bunch of stuff that was donated toward our raffle and recognition dinner. This year, we have elk, antelope, wild hog, alligator, venison, and quail. A lot of fish will also be there, and it will be a real spread,” he said.

For more information about the hunt call Price at 334-343-3894 or visit Andalusia Lions Club-Alabama on Facebook.