Fourteen veterans and servicemen gathered together for the fifth Enterprise South Nature Park Wounded Warrior Hunt. Participants from Fort Campbell and several through Hero Hunt Inc. joined TWRA and Safari Club International (SCI) for a two day hunt. TWRA, Region 3 biologist Ben Layton has coordinated the hunt since its inception.
Wounded Warrior hunts began in the park in 2012 after deer populations reached higher levels.
Mr. Layton’s knowledge of the area’s deer populations and a need for safe removal of deer in a populated area led him to start the hunt. “This hunt is a truly win-win situation. We’re able to provide an opportunity for our servicemen and women who have given so much, while keeping the deer population in the park at healthier levels,” said Mr. Layton.
Several organizations and individuals donated their time and services to ensure the best time possible for participants. Meals and lodging were provided through SCI. Each hunter was provided a guide, many of which came from SCI and TWRA. Hero Hunt Inc. provided licenses for hunters in need. A caring Hamilton county resident, Joe Jolley, provided a cookout, entertainment and an area to sight in hunting equipment the evening before the first hunt. Tennessee Valley Ice donated a refrigerated truck to house harvested deer prior to processing which was donated from Roger’s Processing. Cleveland State Community College, Wildlife Society students volunteered their time to field dress deer and help record harvest data.
Mr. Layton also oversees a Wounded Warrior hunt at Fall Creek Falls State Park each year. Through his involvement in these hunts, Mr. Layton has seen beneficial outcomes. Of course, deer populations have declined; but the best feedback Mr. Layton has received comes directly from the mouths of servicemen and veterans he’s so dedicated to helping. “We’ve received overwhelming gratitude from participants. We’ve been told by many that the hunt gave them a newer, brighter perspective in a troubling time. We hope this time rests their minds from any worries or troubles they’re facing,” he said.
Participants are not greeted by beautiful mountain views. The landscape of the retired munitions plant is scattered with dilapidated buildings with broken windows. Kudzu has overtaken parking lots and is encroaching roadways. Still, scattered woodlots and open areas provide lots of deer habitat. The landscape isn’t what hunters have focused on though. Smiles, stories and a successful hunt are the underlying goals. Eight hunters harvested 11 deer and hopefully felt the care of those involved, including others with similar life stories.
TWRA technician Andy Lawson was a guide during this year’s hunt. Lawson was placed with Colonel Don Wolfe, from Louisville, KY. Colonel Wolfe, a Special Forces veteran, took his first deer during the hunt. Mr. Lawson summed up the two days by stating, “These men are so humble about their service. Many have lost friends and been away from their families during their service. They’ve sacrificed for all of us. I’m honored to spend my time with them and hope in a small way, we’re saying thank you.”