Judging from the roars of laughter echoing off the walls of the Hebbertsburg Community Center Saturday, one would hardly guess that a major deer hunt was in progress. And it didn't matter that no one had bagged a buck by lunch time – what matters is that everyone was there.

And the smiles. The skies may have been cloudy and grey but the sunshine emitting from the smiles of over two dozen handicapped hunters and about 100 volunteers helped make an impractical day possible.

It was hard to tell who had more fun on this day, the hunters or the volunteer guides who assisted the hunters to the blinds and stayed out in the windy cold all day to make a dream for some a reality.

Ages of the hunters ranged from 11 to 87 and the backgrounds were just as diverse. By the end of the day all left with fond memories of their Hebbertsburg and Cumberland County hosts and a day in the woods, just doing what others do but take for granted.

There was Marvin Rose, a life-long hunter and the oldest by ten years of the 28 hunters who registered for the hunt and whose ability to climb a hill and get into a blind hampered by knee surgery.

"My mind is still good but the rest is not quite working just right," Rose noted. "I have been a lifelong hunter and this has been a great day."

Rose was caught up with while he rested after dining on chili with other hunters and guides during a mid-day break. When asked if he had seen a deer that morning, Rose replied, "Just two crows. But we're going back out," he said with a smile.

Then there was articulate and personable Charlie Vogle, age 11, who was enjoying a day in the woods with dad, Bill, and brother, Gus.

"I have always enjoyed nature and I just like being out in the woods and talking with your guides," Charlie said.

The Knoxville elementary school student could be considered a veteran of such hunts. His first was made possible by the Catch A Dream program and that sent him to Rand, TX, where he hunted with Boston Red Sox World Series Most Valuable Player Josh Beckett on Beckett's ranch.

On that hunt Charlie bagged a nine-point, 185-pound buck from about 115 yards. That hooked Charlie. He and family members now go whenever the opportunity presents itself. He went on the Wheelin' Sportsman's first two turkey hunts.

Cumberland County Sheriff Butch Burgess was incognito in his hunting gear and laughed when he talked of son Lynn's excitement. "He's been wired about this all week and he woke us up this morning at 2 a.m., standing in the doorway putting his belt in his pants, ready to go."

With lunch barely settling in his stomach, Lynn was prodding his guides to get back out into the field.

For Larry Huskins the trip from Cleveland meant getting up early enough to dress and make the two-plus hour drive from Bradley County. At lunch he said he planned to stay in the woods until dark, or until he got his deer, whichever came first. Then he would drive the two hours back home but it was worth it to him to experience the hunt.

Larry is a member of the Decatur Longbeards Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and first learned of the handicapped hunts when Mickey Griffin and Wayne Shadden visited his club.

"The next thing I knew, I was deer hunting," Huskins said with a big grin from his wheelchair.

He was teamed with Cumberland County volunteers Mike Norrod and Jason Mast, both of whom appeared to be having as much, or more fun, than Larry.

"Wayne came and talked to us about the program, too. It was always something I wanted to do and after hearing Wayne, well, I have done it every year. I look forward to it and will always volunteer when I can."

Added Mast, "I heard about it and it was something I wanted to get involved with. I can get up and walk, do whatever I want. It is a way to make someone's day and something I have looked forward to. All the glory of this goes to the Lord."

Charles Tollett, a national director of the NWTF and Crossville native, said that volunteers put up 40 blinds to accommodate that many hunters. They began preparing for the Saturday hunt the first of December. The hunt is sponsored by the Plateau Chapter of NWTF through revenues generated by an auction, fundraisers and donations.

Tollett said the hunt would not be possible if not for the generosity of the local landowners in Hebbertsburg. A barbecue supper was held Friday night complete with entertainment and activities to say thanks to the local property owners and the volunteer army.

Volunteers on Saturday provided a chili lunch to warm the chilled hunters and there was plenty of entertainment and shenanigans to keep the hunters and volunteers smiling during the mid-day break.

Charles' dad, Dale, served as judge of a kangaroo court

"It's a family thing," Dale said. "Charles used to follow me around. Now I following him," he added with a laugh.

Dale then presided over the trial of Shane Brown who was charged with shooting at — and missing — a large buck during the morning hunt. Shane tried his best to mount a defense.

"It was a little four-legged deer ... oh, OK, it was a big deer. It had a little rack, about an inch behind each ear. Oh, OK, it had a rack but I wasn't sure if it was a doe or a buck so that is why I didn't shoot right away."

In the end Brown claimed it was an act of God that he missed the deer because of a 30 mph wind that burst through the blind as the bullet left the barrel of his gun.

The crowd roared. The jury said guilty. And in time-honored tradition, a piece of Shane's shirt tail was cut off by the hanging judge.

Ron Spencer, a Knoxville educator who seldom misses a NWTF function, was in fine voice as he entertained with an excellent rendition of Tennessee Ernie Ford's Sixteen Tons. The rhythm section and air guitarists he pulled from the group of hunters and guides lacked much to be desired. Again the crowd roared with laughter.

And in keeping with the spirit of the day, two adults who won prizes of .22 rifles gave their prizes away ... to two of the younger hunters.

The Wheelin' Sportsman deer hunt was made possible by Plateau Longbeards and is a program of the NWTF "dedicated to providing all people with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors."

Realizing that disabled people have limited, and sometimes non-existent, opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and hunting, the NWTF developed the Wheelin' Sportsman program.

NWTF is also involved in shooting, fishing, archery and golf opportunities for the disabled. For more information, call (800) THE-NWTF or to to the federation's Web site at www.nwft.org.

Both Wayne Shadden and Charles Tollett agreed that the success of this year's event is encouraging them to make the hunt an annual affair for Cumberland County.

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