Though it may not be the largest volunteer organization that I know of, the United Foundation For Disabled Archers (UFFDA) may be the coolest. With chapters in Wisconsin and Minnesota, what UFFDA does is take men and women with disabilities on archery hunts.
In the years 2004, 2005 and 2015 I helped at the Tesomas Scout Camp Hunt, which is held at a Boy Scout camp that covers 1,200 acres just north of Rhinelander. In those years, what I did for this three-day hunt was help a hunter get to a blind, sit with him, and at the end of each hunt, take him back to the camp cafeteria, where the 25 hunters, at least 30 guides and kitchen helpers hung out.
Thursday, Oct. 17
High 71, low 45
I pulled into the Tesomas Scout Camp today at about noon and it was like seeing an old friend that I had not seen in years, and I mean that with the guides, hunters and the camp itself.
Tom Nicholson was a year younger than me in school. He is the second vice president of UFFDA and is an incredible, get-it-done type of 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 been guiding Jeff Hvam. Jim is from the Portage area is a retired Alliant Energy employee, and overall just a great guy.
The first thing that every hunter must do before they are allowed to start hunting is make sure that their crossbow is sighted in. Folks, I must admit until this hunt, I had completely forgot how a crossbow works.
Next, hunt coordinator Tim Nicholson, who is the son of Tom and Cheryl, told us where we would be hunting, 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 awhile, I would be guiding Jeffery Hvam for the next three days.
Jeff has been hunting with Jim Watson for 19 years, but Jim has some health issues that do not allow him to physically lift a man who is 6-foot-4 out of a wheelchair and in and out of a truck.
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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.
The hunters at this event were disabled due to a variety of issues, including motorcycle and car accidents, a strok, a tree stand fall, and in Jeff Hvams case, uncontrolled seizures due to 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. Another hunters’ crossbow did not fire at a buck because he forgot to take if off safety, and two of the lady hunters in our camp stayed out from dark to dark.
Bob and Steve Bakken are two volunteers who help out by cutting up every deer that is brought into camp.
Todd Dykstra is a guide, and helped Jerome Murphy roast a hog, which was our dinner tonight. And with my natural charm, I am starting to get Jeffery to think I am an OK guy.
The following day was our last full day of hunting, and not a whitetail was harvested, which meant the hunt finished with six total deer being taken.
There is so much to be said about UFFDA and the experiences of every person at a hunt like this, but what is most important is that there are not as many volunteers out there as there used to be.
This incredible experience should be documented on television. No one asked me to do this, but go to uffdaclub.com and figure out how you can help. Even a $20 membership, or 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.