The Booker Hunting Club in southeast Lauderdale County hosted the annual Outdoors Without Limits (OWL) deer hunt Friday and Saturday, January 8th and 9th. Temperatures in the teens and twenties did little to squelch the enthusiasm of this event as more than 20 hunters with disabilities and their guides took to the woods in search of whitetail deer. The hunt was followed by the fellowship of a roaring campfire, great food and story telling.
Booker Hunting Club families take vacation days from their jobs to make this event very special for everyone, especially for the hunters and families of persons with disabilities that attend the event. Special accommodations must be prepared for wheelchair bound hunters, lots of wood cut for an 18 hour daily campfire and food prepared for meals and snacks.
Local businesses donate items for a silent auction. All proceeds go to conduct similar events around the Southeast. Next week the OWL event will be held in Troy, Alabama with 139 hunters scheduled to participate and 86 landowners volunteering their properties for the hunt.
Kirk Thomas started the Outdoors Without Limits organization several years ago. A native Meridianite, Kirk was injured in 1992 in a freak accident while hunting. A tree fell on him, breaking his back and paralyzing him from the waist down. An avid outdoorsman, Kirk awakened one day following his accident to realize “I’m not going to be able to go over to that next ridge to chase the gobbler any more, but I don’t have to give up the outdoors that I love.” Since that time he has dedicated his life to helping people with disabilities to experience the camaraderie of hunting and fishing.
Consider the stories of these guys and think about the times when you and I were very close to being injured. We can all identify with the “no promise of good health tomorrow” philosophy:
• Evan Edwards, who as a high school junior was injured making a tackle in a Clarkdale High School football game and is a quadriplegic
• Rocky Blier, a quadriplegic who fell from a roof as a construction worker
• Darrell Hover, a quadriplegic following a 4-wheeler accident
• Greg Hunter suffered a stroke as a 41 year old in 2005
• Bert Fine, who has been a paraplegic since an automobile accident in 1986
• Webb Nix, retired Army two-star general who lost a leg to diabetes
• Tim Weir lost an arm to bone cancer
I’m sure all these men suffer some moments of depression and “why did this have to happen to me…,” but you could not tell that at this event. Their attitudes of gratefulness for their guides and hosts were inspiring to say the least. Kirk Thomas comments “The greatest thing is to see healthy people’s attitude change when they experience the joy of giving to people who have been less fortunate. It becomes emotional, giving to someone else. This is a faith-based, inclusive organization and anybody who gets involved will experience a spiritual uplifting. It’s a life changing experience of friendship and sharing.”
If you love the outdoors and believe that giving back to something that has afforded you great enjoyment is worthwhile, plan on getting involved with the Outdoors Without Limits folks and the Booker Hunting Club next year. I can promise that your spirits will be lifted.
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