Part of the lure of hunting season is the chance to spend time outdoors, living and breathing nature. Driving to a specified hunting spot, walking over logs, through creek beds, and crossing fences to get to a tree-stand or deer blind is something most hunters take for granted. Torey Hett of Marion does not.
“I was born with spina bifida,” Hett said. “In elementary school I could get around with braces and a walker, but now that I’ve grown older, it’s just faster with a wheel chair.”
Wheel chairs do not do well in the woods however, and Hett, along with several other disabled hunters from the area, appreciated the help of volunteers taking part in a special program assisting the disabled near Marion Reservoir.
“On the weekends we have volunteers who meet us at the base camp at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.,” Hett said. “We pair volunteers with disabled hunters, then draw for hunting sites, and then they take us out in ATVs or four-wheelers.”
Hett said there are 12 hunting sites near French Creek Cove at Marion Reservoir. There are usually five disabled hunters needing assistance during September, when they take advantage of an early muzzle-loaders and disabled hunting season.
According to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism, the muzzleloader season runs Sept. 17 to 30, while the youth and disabled season started Sept. 8 and ended Sept. 16.
“We had two guys who got two does two weekends ago, and another guy got a doe this past weekend,” Hett said. “We will go again this next weekend, but that will be it.”
Hett, who works full-time in the office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Marion Reservoir, grew up hunting with his parents near Marion.
“I just like to do my part in keeping hunting available for those who couldn’t do it otherwise,” he said. “My job is to send out the invitations to the hunters and the volunteers and then just keep on top of letting everyone know where we will be meeting and when.”
Hett said there were three organizations involved with putting on the disabled hunts in Marion County. The Corps of Engineers, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Tourism, and the Marion Lake Association combine efforts to help disabled hunters get out into the woods and fields.
“We have a great bunch of dedicated volunteers,” Hett said. “Warren Kreutziger even took us all out for a fishing trip last weekend, and then Saturday evening we had a fish fry with our families, volunteers, and hunters.”
Hett said more than 30 people took part in the fish fry, which was actually a potluck meal.
With only one more weekend of assisted hunting available, Hett said the hardest part of the whole experience now, was having the patience to wait for a big buck to come along. Of course, that is also the best part of the experience too.