Jeremy Chapin was serving in Iraq when his vehicle was hit by an IED. One hundred percent disabled by the blast, Chapin knew his life would never be the same. However, he probably never expected the opportunities his disability would present, such as the chance to take his first deer at Chattanooga's Enterprise South.
When it was announced last year that managed deer hunts were to resume at Enterprise South, there was considerable controversy. Although managed hunts have been a staple on the area for decades, increased public usage of the now-popular park brought opposition. In response, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency decided to make one of the two managed hunts on the area a specially designated opportunity for wounded or injured veterans who might not otherwise have the opportunity to get in the woods.
Chapin joined two dozen other veterans during the Hunt for Warriors, held Oct. 22 -23. Most of the hunters were from Ft. Campbell's Screaming Eagles Airborne unit, but the group also included veterans from Vietnam and even the Korean War.
The special hunt was sponsored by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Chattanooga chapter of Safari Club International.
Several of the veterans, including Chapin, had never deer hunted before. They were each paired with a guide for the hunt. The 25 hunters took 26 deer. Ben Layton, Region 3 wildlife biologist, said the hunt served two purposes—it helped thin the overpopulated deer herd at Enterprise South while honoring those who have served our country.
TWRA waived normal license expenses, while SCI donated $3,500 to cover all food and lodging expenses for the veterans.
"It was very important for us to make this an occasion where the guys were able to relax and focus on hunting rather than dwelling on the past," Keith Watson, Chattanooga-area SCI president, said.
A drawing was held for a pheasant hunt in North Dakota in 2013. SCI also donated a rifle that was given away. However, Matthew Taylor, the winner of the rifle, said he was going to have it engraved with "Hunt for Warriors" and that he would be donating it to the Healing Outside of a Hospital Program, which helps rehabilitate veterans wounded in combat.
Dan Hicks, regional information officer for TWRA, said, "In 16 years with TWRA, this is the most fun I have ever had while working."
Bill Swan, III, Hunt for Warriors committee chairman, said, "This hunt was so successful that we have already made arrangements with the TWRA to co-sponsor this event next year."
The Chattanooga chapter of SCI has long been an extremely proactive partner in numerous area wildlife law enforcement efforts and management programs. Recently, representatives were on hand to present a $4,000 check to TWRA, earmarked for the Elk Restoration Program. That means that since Tennessee's Elk Restoration Program began, SCI has donated a total $15,500 for the program.
Richard Simms is a contributing writer, focusing on outdoor sports.