An Outdoorsman’s Journal,
By Mark Walters
UFFDA Hunt 2019
Hello friends, Although it may not be the largest volunteer organization I know of, UFFDA the (United Foundation For Disabled Archers) may be the coolest. With chapters in Wisconsin and Minnesota, UFFDA takes men and women with disabilities on archery hunts.
In 2004, 2005 and 2015, I helped at the Camp Tesomas Hunt, which is a Boy Scout camp that covers 1,200 acres, just north of Rhinelander. In those years, what I did for this threeday hunt, was help a hunter get to a blind, sit with him and at the end of each hunt, take him back to the cafeteria/commons area, where the 25 hunters and at least 30 guides, and kitchen helpers hang out.
This week’s column will be choppy, because there is a ton to write about.
Thursday, Oct. 17 • High 71, Low 45
I pulled into Tesomas today, about noon, and it was like seeing an old friend I had not seen in years, and I mean that with the guides, hunters and Camp Tesomas itself.
Tom Nicholson was a year younger than I was in school, he is the second vice president of the UFFDA and an incredible, get-it-done guy. I also went to school with Tom’s wife, Cheryl, and she runs the kitchen, which is a huge task.
I met Jim Watson back in 2004, and for the last 19 years, Jim has guided Jeff Hvam. Jim is from the Portage area, is a retired Alliant Energy employee and overall, just a great guy.
The first thing every hunter must do before they are allowed to start hunting, is make sure their crossbow is sighted in. Folks, I must admit, until this hunt I had completely forgotten how a crossbow works.
Next, hunt coordinator Tim Nicholson, who is the son of Tom and Cheryl, told us where we would hunt, which on this huge property, can be hard to find. About all I have to say about Tim, is he is excellent at his job and a very good guy, just like fellow volunteers Logan Leonard, Bart Mueller and dozens of other very good people.
Next, and here is where it gets touchy for a while, I would guide Jeff for the next three days.
Jeff has hunted with Jim for 19 years. Jim has some health issues that do not allow him to physically lift a man that is 6’4”, out of a wheelchair, and put him into a truck and vice versa.
At first, my new friend did not want to hunt with me, but by the end of the weekend, we were good buddies, and I had immense respect for people with physical impediments and their caregivers.
Just to give you an idea of some of the health issues, or causes with our hunters and good friends, here are a few: motorcycle, car accident, stroke, tree stand fall and in Jeff’s case, uncontrolled seizures because of epilepsy. While in the blind, Jeff had five seizures over five hunts, but, because I was forewarned, it was not a big deal.
On our first hunt, 25 hunters harvested three antlerless deer and the mood in camp was excellent.
Friday, Oct. 18
This is deer camp for these hunters and this morning, two more deer fell victim to their crossbows on a beautiful morning in the Northwoods. A bear was spotted by one hunter, one hunter’s crossbow did not fire at a buck, because he forgot to take if off the safety, and two of the lady hunters in our camp stayed out from dark to dark.
Back to the volunteers; Bob and Steve Bakken are here to help, as they cut up every deer brought into camp.
Todd Dykstra is a guide and helped Jerome Murphy roast a hog, which was our dinner tonight. Oh, yeah, and with my natural charm, I am starting to get Jeff to think I am an OK guy!
The following day was our last full day of hunting, and not a whitetail was harvested, which gave us a total of six.
There is so much to be said about the UFFDA and the experiences of every person at a hunt like this, but what is most important is this – folks, there are not as many volunteers out there, as there used to be.
This experience should be documented on TV, it is incredible. No one asked me to do this, but go to uffdaclub.com and figure out how you can help. Even a $20 membership, help in the kitchen, or possibly the super cool job of being a guide or just figuring out how you could help someone go on a turkey hunt next spring. Everything is free to the hunters and the awesome feeling you get for your help, is worth the price of admission. Sunset