By Buckmasters Online
-- Deer hunters from throughout the United States headed afield Monday afternoon for the start of the 2008 Buckmasters Classic Life Hunt at Sedgefields Plantation in Dallas County, Ala.
Photo: Ely Clark of Cleveland, Miss., waits eagerly for the 2008 Buckmasters Classic Life Hunt to begin at Sedgefields Plantation in Dallas County, Ala.
Even though the participants are avid whitetail enthusiasts, they certainly are not your typical hunters. Some made their way into the field with the aid of wheelchairs and walkers. Others, while they do not depend on mobility devices, have debilitating conditions that make a trip to the deer woods a challenge.
For these 11 hunters, the experience goes beyond the dreams of taking a big 140-class Alabama buck during the rut. The fact that they are out in the woods with well-versed hunting guides has made their journeys to the Heart of Dixie ones they will soon not forget.
"If you've never hunted in the South, it doesn't get any better than this," said Jackie Bushman, founder and CEO of Buckmasters.
In its 7th year, the Buckmasters Classic Life Hunt gives seriously ill and disabled hunters the chance to get out and hunt with the assistance of guides where the possibility of taking a trophy buck is real.
Photo: Sedgefields Plantation owner Jimmy Hinton, right, discusses strategy with some of the 2008 Buckmasters Classic Life Hunt guides before the first afternoon hunt.
"The graciousness of the Hintons is key to getting the hunters out into the woods," said David Sullivan, Buckmasters American Deer Foundation director.
"The Life Hunt is a really big deal for us," said Jimmy Hinton Jr., owner of Sedgefields Plantation. "We start thinking about and preparing for this hunt months before it starts."
Buckmasters, Hinton, his business partners, friends and family volunteer their time to assist the participants during the 3-day hunt.
"In the past, we've taken people out hunting during the Life Hunts who needed oxygen tanks, IV fluids or their parents to assist," Hinton continued.
Photo: Jackie Bushman, Buckmasters CEO and founder, welcomes guests to the 2008 Buckmasters Classic Life Hunt.
Buckmasters unveiled its Takin' Heroes Hunting program during the Life Hunt's opening introductions. The program was created in conjunction with the U.S. Army and gives two wounded soldiers the chance to participate in the annual Life Hunt. This year's participants are Alan Grenier of Fort Benning, Ga., and Michael Snisky of Prattville, Ala.
What's In Store for the Hunters This Year
The rut is just now picking up in Alabama, and with that, there is no real pattern to what the bucks may do on this 11,000-acre plantation.
The local acorn crop is booming and could keep the bucks concentrated in small areas, but again, the main wildcard is the rut.
"When the bucks start rutting around here, you can throw all the rules out," Hinton said.
The game plan is that the morning hunts will take place in cut fields, flats and natural ditches. The afternoon settings will consist of greenfields and clear-cuts.
Originally a quail plantation, Sedgefields caught the deer bug in the mid-1970s. By the late '70s, there was a huge population of big deer, which is considered almost uncommon in central Alabama.
Hinton explained the reason for the plantation's success lies in burning a majority of the undergrowth every year and trying to keep a tight doe-to-buck ratio. On average, the plantation has harvested 82 bucks over the past 10 years.
Every participant during the 2007 Life Hunt harvested a buck. A 150-class buck took top honors.