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Hunters with Disabilities Enjoy Annual Hunt on National Forests in East Texas

Posted by Ernie Murray, U.S. Forest Service, Texas in Forestry
May 12, 2021
U.S. Forest Service employees Michael Sowell (right) and Lanton Chumley plan where to locate hunter blinds. The goal is to ensure sites are accessible to accommodate hunters with varying disabilities. (U.S. Forest Service/Mandy Chumley)
U.S. Forest Service employees Michael Sowell (right) and Lanton Chumley plan where to locate hunter blinds. The goal is to ensure sites are accessible to accommodate hunters with varying disabilities. (U.S. Forest Service/Mandy Chumley)

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.

UPDATE: The annual Angelina Wheelin’ Sportsmen event for people who live with a disability is usually the second weekend in December at Stephen F. Austin Experimental Forest in Nacogdoches, Texas, Winston Tree Farm, about 12 miles south of Nacogdoches, and the nearby Alazon Wildlife Management Area.

The National Wild Turkey Federation’s Wheelin’ Sportsmen program sponsors the two two-day deer and hog hunt along with USDA Forest Service, the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the April AWOL and Pineywoods chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Applications for the Texas Forest Service event are available beginning of October at ranger district offices in Zavalla, Hemphill, New Waverly, Kennard, and Decatur; at the Forest Supervisor’s office in Lufkin; and online: www.fs.usda.gov/texas

Applications must be received by Nov. 1:
Angelina National Forest
111 Walnut Ridge Road
Zavalla, Texas 75980

Persons with physical disabilities may apply, and there is no cost to attend. The 20 participants selected for the event must provide for their transportation, lodging, and a valid Texas hunting license. Volunteers and instructors will be available; meals are provided for participants and two guests.

For more information, call the Angelina National Forest at 936-897-1068.

For more information about Wheelin’ Sportsmen events connect with the Wild Turkey Federation.

Category/Topic: Forestry