By Rick Kundee
It was May of 2005, and the pressure was on. My 17-year-old daughter, Lauren, had taken an interest in deer hunting. She accompanied me on a few hunts and then informed me that she wanted to become a deer hunter. Lauren showed just how serious she was by completing the hunter safety course and becoming an excellent marksman — even better than me.
As we sat down in May to plan Lauren’s first hunt in the fall, our lease of 10 years was sold. Finding a good, affordable lease in Texas on short notice was going to be difficult, at best.
About that time, I happened to read the latest edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine and came across at BADF article about hunts for ill and physically challenged kids. I knew Buckmasters was involved in helping physically challenged youth get out in the woods, but I had never given it much thought. With it already being summer, I was sure everything would already be booked, but I wrote a letter explaining our situation anyway.
To my surprise Lauren received a questionnaire a few months later. She filled out the paperwork and sent it in, but my hopes weren’t high.
Then, the BADF’s director of disabled hunter services, David Sullivan, called to say there was an opportunity for Lauren to hunt with a few other youths in southern Alabama at the end of January. Buckmasters had teamed up with RutNBucks Outfitters and Chuck Reynolds of Reynolds Timber Company to host the kids and their parents. Lauren was ecstatic!
We counted down the days until it was finally time to leave for the hunt. It was a long drive from Dallas, so we decided to stop somewhere around Jackson, Miss., for the night. We had no idea that most of the hotel rooms were still housing Hurricane Katrina victims. Over the next three hours, we stopped at every exit with no luck. To make matters worse, the right front wheel of the Suburban had begun to make a loud noise — and you know that can’t be good. We made the best we could of the situation, though, and slept in the truck, waking up and turning on the motor to get a little heat going.
In the morning, we stopped at Ed Davis Motors and explained our predicament and asked if they could rush the diagnosis and repair on the Suburban. The repairs turned out to be another adventure, but service manager Steve King worked some magic and got us back on the road.
Tired, but relieved and with renewed enthusiasm, we hit the highway and arrived in Cintronelle late in the afternoon. We checked in headed to the local ACE hardware to buy Lauren’s hunting license. But since she couldn’t drive the Suburban, Lauren hadn’t brought her driver’s license — a hunter safety card alone will not get you a license.
We made a frantic call home, and Lauren’s mom scrambled to get to the house, find the missing card and fax a copy to the hardware store. We made it with 15 minutes to spare! The hunt was actually going to happen!
Back at the camp, the kids attended a reception and orientation, followed by a meal provided by a local church. With full bellies and exhausted bodies, Lauren and I didn’t have any trouble sleeping that night. Up early the next morning, we made the 25-minute drive to Reynolds Camp, a beautiful lodge and private hunting camp managed for the enjoyment of Reynolds Timber Co. employees, several of whom acted as volunteer guides for the kids. They worked very hard, and it was fun to see how proud and excited they were when any of the hunters had success.
On the first morning, we met our guide, Barry Beech, and headed out to a box blind overlooking a long, narrow powerline cut. Barry had worked for Reynolds for 30 years and knew some "special" spots. As the sun came up, the contrast of the green field against the pine thicket was breathtaking.
We saw a few does, one of which was followed by a huge buck. The pair stayed out about 400 yards and never quit moving.
For the evening hunt, we went to an elevated box blind overlooking a small greenfield on a rolling hillside. The blind was only big enough for Lauren and me, so we settled in and surveyed the surroundings. With a blue sky and bright sunshine, the scenery was spectacular. We heard a few shots at dusk, but our big buck never materialized.
On the second morning, we went to a ground blind overlooking another powerline cutover. Again, we saw a few does but nothing to shoot.
When it came time for the last hunt, it was obvious that Barry was pulling out all the stops to try to put Lauren on a buck. We left camp a little early to get to his "honey hole" — a secluded food plot that looked like deer should be standing in it 24-7. Lauren kept telling Barry that she was having a blast and that the hunt was already a success whether she went home with a deer or not.
Shortly after we settled in, several does slipped into the field. The were followed by a spike, which Barry told Lauren she could shoot if she so chose. Lauren decided that she had come to Alabama in hopes of tagging a big buck, so she wasn’t going to shoot just to say she got a deer. I think Barry felt like he let us down, but Lauren and I both had a wonderful time.
Several hunters took deer, and all the hunters, parents, guides and volunteers took home the special memories of this hunt.