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Disabled hunters take to the woods

A wheelchair and crutches did not stop two hunters from each harvesting their own deer Saturday, Dec. 4, at Hartman Creek State Park.

A program organized by Warden Ted Dremel with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources gives disabled hunters an opportunity to hunt deer.

The program is in its fourth year at Hartman Creek. Over the prior three years, only one deer had been harvested.

A group of three disabled hunters accompanied by three mentors went out into a field in the morning and again in the afternoon.

Although they were unsuccessful in harvesting any deer in the morning, the hunters were excited about the hours they spent outdoors.

“Prior to my handicap, I used to do a lot of hunting,” said Ken Sylvester, who relies on a wheelchair as a result of a motorcycle accident in 1976.

Sylvester said he had tried hunting after the accident, but found the experience frustrating because of his disability.

Then, when Brian Cullen installed a new water heater in Sylvester’s home, he learned about the DNR program at Hartman Creek. Cullen is one of the hunting mentors in the program.

As someone who grew up on a farm and enjoys snowmobiling, Sylvester, as with all of the participants, sees hunting as a way to feel connected to nature.

He had his first successful hunting experience in three decades Saturday after shooting a doe in the afternoon.

Alex Schultz saw at least 15 deer when he went out in the morning.

“When we drove up there was a four-pointer near the stand,” Schultz said. “The buck was 10 yards away, maybe closer. I could have put my hand out and touched him.”

Schultz said he first went out hunting last year with Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk as part of a program run by Rawhide.

“I took a shot and got a 13-pointer,” Schultz said, regarding his first hunting experience.

Throughout the morning, Schultz saw a large number of deer walk by, but they were spooked before he had a chance to get off a shot.

He had better luck that evening and returned home with a doe.

Shawn Craig was disappointed by his luck in the field, yet he enjoyed the experience of being outdoors.

“I don’t want to kill a little doe, I want a trophy buck,” Craig said.

Dremel said the program would not be possible without community support. The blinds were donated by local sportsmen and the heaters were donated by Whitetails Unlimited. Funding was provided by Iola Lions, Dale Bestul Insurance, Chain BP and Jay-Mar Garden Center.

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