SRS-managed deer hunt provides opportunity for wounded veterans
The opportunity to participate in a deer hunt at the Savannah River Site annually lures hunters to the 310-square-mile Department of Energy complex; however, none appreciate the privilege more than the 40 physically disabled hunters and Wounded Warriors invited for a special two-day deer hunt each fall.
“This is a special event created to honor our wounded veterans and give them, as well as other hunters with physical disabilities, an opportunity to once again enjoy the thrill of the hunt and the warm satisfaction of camaraderie gained through shared experience,” said Joe Solesby, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) employee and program manager for the site’s deer hunts. “I’m proud of the volunteers who make all of this possible by donating a lot of time and hard work for these hunters who have travelled from as far away as Florida and Virginia this year.”
This is the 19th consecutive year this event has been held at SRS.
According to Solesby, it’s not just deer that may be seen through the gunsights of the hunters.
“It’s not unusual for feral hogs to be harvested, as well. And, some of them are quite large,” he added. “Not too many hunters can say they’ve taken down a wild hog.”
The day of the hunt, the mood swings from laughter and excitement during a hardy breakfast to serious concentration as the hunters and their volunteer escorts quietly watch and listen for the telltale signs of nearby animals.
Hours later, during a grilled steak lunch – also provided by volunteers – stories are shared about the five hogs and six deer harvested that morning along with the tales of the huge buck that barely got away.
“This event is a way of showing our appreciation to these ladies and gentlemen for the sacrifices they have made for this country, for their families and for all U.S. citizens,” said Johnny Jones, volunteer hunter escort and the SRNS integrated maintenance team manager. “Over the past eight or nine years, I’ve talked with and had an opportunity to get to know many men and women during the hunt. You listen to them speaking from the heart about their life experiences and see the joy on their faces. That’s the reward for me.”
The mobility-impaired hunters are typically from throughout the Southeast, while many of the wounded veterans are from a local veteran’s hospital.
SRNS manages the mobility-impaired and Wounded Warrior hunts and provides sponsorship in conjunction with DOE, the USDA Forest Service-Savannah River and the Wheelin’ Sportsman National Wild Turkey Federation.
Conducting deer hunts annually helps reduce the size of the deer population as a safety measure towards protecting the drivers traveling daily throughout SRS. Over the past 20 years, SRS has averaged approximately 100 animal-vehicle collisions per year.
In addition, DOE, SRNS and the USDA Forest Service strive to ensure a productive and controlled environment for all hunters at SRS, working as a team to develop the best strategy to responsibly manage wildlife while ensuring participant safety.