By: Carson Love
The 2022 Deer Hunt was the first deer hunt I coordinated by myself since starting my job as the UGA Academics Afield Coordinator. It went absolutely amazing, but not without its fair share of hiccups. This hunt reminded me how resilient I can be and how my friends, mentors, and participants can really rally to help the hunt become a success.
The deer hunt falls right in the middle of midterms or finals, heading toward the end of the semester, and I have to say I let this hunt sneak up on me a little bit. Picking the date for the hunt was the first challenge; I checked the UGA Academic Calendar, the football schedule, the testing schedules, and club and field trip schedules and there really was no good date besides the one free weekend of December 3rd. The date was set and run by the property owner; everything was good to go. Several weeks later, I was made aware that the planned date fell on the SEC Football Championship, so naturally, we had to change the hunt. The backup date, November 12th, was put on the calendar and set in stone. We were back in business once again. The new date, however, worried the property owner because the food plots would not be grown and ready in time. I assured her that it is all a part of hunting; we turned it into a learning opportunity about land management for wildlife.
Two weeks before the hunt, the Biology and Hunting Strategies workshop was held at Warnell with Dr. Gino D’Angelo as the lecturer. There were so many questions
asked and so much excitement about the hunt. Several were not able to make it due to late classes or labs, but we worked around that by recording the session on Zoom. Of course, when they went to watch it, there was no sound- gotta love technology. But again, we made it work and I was able to send them some great resources to get all of the information they needed to know.
The next task was to reach out to the Athens Rifle Club to see if we could use their facilities to host the firearms training. The ARC was very generous by allowing us to use their range and went above and beyond to accommodate Academics Afield. This is the first time this program has worked with ARC, but I foresee a strong future relationship with them. The owners were kind and welcoming and showed the participants how important their community members are for helping us reach our goals. Of the ten shooters at the range that day, only three had ever held a firearm. The surprise and excitement after they all pulled the trigger for the first time reminds me of why I love my job.
Throughout the week before the hunt, I had several mentors let me know they were no longer able to make it, but I was able to ask around and find other students that were more than willing to help out. I originally had more mentors willing to help than I needed, however, I know life happens and wanted to be prepared. I was nervous on the day of the hunt, but I knew everything was going to work out. A majority of the supervisors that usually were on the hunt were not able to make it. The property owner was also unable to make it, as she was recovering from Covid. Fortunately, two of the men that hunted and helped manage the property were there to guide us and help me get everything together. My friend and former coordinator, Cody Ellis, also tagged along as a mentor. These guys became my team; if I forgot something or needed help, they were there. They kept the conversation going and helped answer a million questions asked by the excited hunters. The men who hunted the property regularly mentioned that they had not seen deer in about a week. I wanted the participants to have an opportunity to see deer or shoot more than anything, but sitting in the stand and not seeing a single thing is something every hunter experiences.
Everyone there battled rain and wind, food plots that had not seen water in months, and a mix of excitement and nervousness as they put their crosshairs on the deer. I had 9 new hunters that night, seven of whom came out with a successful harvest. I would say that is a great hunt.
We all enjoyed venison burgers by the fire before a cleaning and quartering lesson. We all shared the stories of our hunt and how it all happened. The experienced hunters shared their successes and mishaps. Every person there realized why the hunting community is so important, why we all have to encourage each other and provide opportunities to new hunters, and why we hunt in the first place.
A huge thank you to the property owner, Mr. Travis and Mr. Curtis, Dr. D’Angelo, Mrs. Sylvia, Bre, and Cody. I couldn’t have pulled it off without y’all.
The Georgia R3 Initiative is a cooperative effort between Georgia Wildlife Federation, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division, National Wild Turkey Federation, the Georgia Chapter of Safari Club International, and Ducks Unlimited.
Academics Afield is supported by a grant (#F21AP00678-00) from the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Programs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Academics Afield: gwf.org/academicsafield
Georgia R3 Initiative: https://gwf.org/r3/
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About Georgia Wildlife Federation
Georgia Wildlife Federation was founded as a sportsman’s organization in 1936 and is Georgia’s oldest conservation organization. Today, members include hunters, anglers, bird watchers, hikers, educators, and all Georgians who are interested in preserving our natural resources and outdoor heritage.