Second Outdoors with Friends deer hunt successful

Published 11:00 pm Monday, December 10, 2012

Dillon Crawford of Baker, Florida, shared a laugh with Steve Camp at the conclusion of the Outdoors with Friends event sponsored locally by Southside Baptist Church’s Brotherhood Ministry. Crawford, who lost his sight in an ATV accident, harvested a buck and a doe. Twenty-eight disabled and disadvantage hunters participated.

Warm weather isn’t the best weather for deer hunting. Saturday was “a good day for deer” if not for the harvest of the second annual Outdoors with Friends in Troy.

“We had 28 hunters and seven deer but it was a great time of fellowship and inspirational sharing,” said Greg Ricks, president of the sponsoring Southside Baptist Church’s Brotherhood Ministry.

Outdoors with Friends is a national organization that provides hands-on outdoor experiences. The mission of the Southside Brotherhood is to provide deer hunting and fishing experiences for disabled and disadvantaged youth and adults along with spiritual enrichment.

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“Of course, we would rather have more deer brought in but the main goal is to bring ‘friends’ together,” Ricks said. “This hunt has been very successful in doing that.”

The 2012 Outdoors with Friends deer hunt attracted hunters and their families from Alabama, Mississippi and Florida and was the result of the hard work, dedication and donations of many.

Although most of the hunters came “home from the hill” without a harvest, the hunt was a great success.

“I didn’t get a deer but I had the best time,” said James ‘Little Man’ Holzapfel from Pensacola, who can rival any fisherman for a tall tale. “I was leaning out of my wheelchair and poking my head in the bushes. That’s when I saw this big buck with a big rack staring back at me. I said, ‘If you don’t quit doing that, I’m gonna shoot you’ and his head jerked away.”

Holzapfel has several previous harvests to his credit, including an eight-point, a seven-point, a spike or two and doe by the dozen.

For sure? “For sure.”

Ricks said it is the fellowship of those who share a common interest that is most important at any Outdoors with Friends event.

That was evident in the twinkle in Little Man’s eyes and the grin on his face as he talked, and talked and talked.

Blake Ellis, a Pike County sharpshooter who with his partner, Jayden Barnes, bagged the big buck of the hunt, a seven -pointer.

“We saw several doe and Blake wanted to shoot but I told him to hold off and we’d see a buck,” Barnes said. “After a while, I didn’t want Blake to miss his opportunity for a deer so I told him to go ahead and shoot and he dropped a doe. Blake was so excited that I could hardly keep him in the stand.”

About 30 minutes later, the buck appeared and Blake got the big buck of the hunt.

Barnes has been involved in hunts for the disabled for three years and said he gets as much pleasure out of guiding as he does hunting.

“I love to hunt and I love to see others enjoy the sport,” he said. “I want others to have this experience. To be a part of a hunt like this means more than I can say. I don’t have words to describe what it’s like. It’s huge.”

Dillon Crawford of Baker, Florida lost his sight five years ago as the result of an ATV accident. He said that, although he can’t see, he still has a vision of what the world is like.

“I like being outside,” he said. “It’s so good to feel the sunshine and the wind. I love to hunt and I’m so proud of this chance to hunt with a lot of other people and to get a deer. That’s why I was out there. My guide got the deer in the crosshair and I squeezed the trigger and hit it. I was so happy. I grinned like a possum.”

Ricks said that giving the 28 disabled and disadvantage hunters an opportunity to experience the hunt was worth more than all the time and effort that went into planning and carrying out the hunt.

The messages of God’s love, His Grace and His Mercy on Friday and Saturday nights strengthened the bonds of friendship that were formed among the hunters, guides, volunteers and the Brotherhood that brought them all together.