Orlin Wiggers of rural Halstead wouldn’t be upset if he didn’t successfully hunt a deer during a program for disabled hunters at Marion Reservoir.
“I’m just happy if somebody else gets them,” the 66-year-old said. “I like the getting-together part. It’s like a family.”
Wiggers’ mobility is limited because his legs were crushed in a car crash in 1971. He required nine surgeries on his legs after the crash.
During his six years participating in the hunting program, he has taken three deer. The best deer he has killed was a high-quality, six-point buck. He said he has seen better bucks while hunting, but wasn’t able to get a shot off.
“You’ve got one shot,” Wiggers said.
The single-shot limitation is because the hunting program allows only the use of muzzle-loaders. Hunters load gunpowder and the bullet separately through the barrel of the rifle.
The hunting program, sponsored by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and Marion Lake Association, is in its 13th year of operation.
Torey Hett of Marion was a hunter in the program before he began working for the Corps of Engineers at the reservoir, and now he helps organize it.
“There are a few hunters who wouldn’t get this opportunity if it weren’t for the event,” he said.
This year there are 11 hunters participating and about 30 volunteers assisting with everything from tracking wounded deer to cooking. Volunteers set up 12 hunting blinds in a state waterfowl refuge near French Creek Cove campground. Hunters draw lots to determine who will hunt at each blind.
The hunts take place during three weekends in late September and early October. Hunts the weekend of Sept. 18 were canceled because of rain, Hett said. There are hunts at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. with a meal after each hunt.
“Everybody will usually see deer,” Hett said, adding that most years four or five hunters will take a deer.
The group also goes fishing for catfish with Warren Kreutziger of Canada Bait and Tackle. The fishing expedition is followed by a fish fry, Hett said.
“We’ve got some good food out here,” Wiggers said.
He said the real value of the hunting program is socializing. Hunters and volunteers spend a lot of time sharing stories around a campfire, which frequently involves good-natured ribbing.
“We always gave Marvin a hard time,” Wiggers said, referring to game warden Marvin Peterson. “We’ve just had so many good times out here. I always look forward to it.”
Invitations to the program mostly go to past participants and others they suggest. Anyone interested in joining the program should contact the Corps of Engineers at (620) 382-2101.