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|Lifetime thrills in handicapped hunt|
An incident in Madison Parish timberland brought the end of a lifetime and the thrill of a lifetime for a Franklin Parish girl.
Life ended for a seven-year-old, six-point buck who spent his last 15 minutes marking his territory with scraping and pawing moves under the gaze of April Gallagher.
When the deer paused to check his surroundings in a narrow clearing, April sent a drop-dead shot from a borrowed .44-40 rifle into his shoulder.
April had spent the last 15 mnutes of the deer's life trying to curb and control the elation and thrill of her 13-year-old lifetime while seated in her wheelchair, her territory for most of her life.
"I did exactly what you told me," she later exclaimed to Louis Robinson, the Winnsboro man who helped organize a massive deer hunt for handicapped November 1.
"I told her," Robinson said, "not to fool around with looking for the perfect shot, when you can see the shoulder, go for it."
April's deer was not the only one taken during a day long hunt which carried 19 handicapped hunters onto property owned by the Marsh family in Madison Parish. The hunters came from throughout the state.
Together they harvested 15 doe and April's buck.
The hunt was under the sponsorship of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the local chapter, the Macon Ridge Gobblers, in consort with Wheelin' Sportsmen. Each organization has increasing outdoors sportsmanship in its charter.
There have been previous hunts, but this had the largest participation--the 19 hunters and enough family, volunteers and friends to bring the total party to 79 people. Not all were hunters.
"You'd be surprised at how many people are willing to help," said Robinson of the logistical efforts needed to organize such an event. "Sometimes you just tell folks what you're trying to do and they just want to be a part of it."
"I can't start naming names cause I'll leave someone out and I don't want to do that," he added.
Individuals and companies supplied things like vehicles of different descriptions, trailers, food (lunch in the form of seafood gumbo from Wallace and Son Produce), arms, ammunition, gasoline, "and the list goes on," said Robinson.
Each handicapped hunter had a volunteer guide, an experienced hunter, at their side.Shelly Chamberlain of Bossier City was with April when she got the buck, not only the first of her hunting career, but the first in her immediate family.
Rose Gallagher, April's mother, was also on the deer stand with Shelly and April for the kill.
Although Rose was also thrilled with April's buck, she was not too surprised
After all, Rose was the one who pushed wheelchair-bound April around the bases during "T" ball games. April was not one to be bound to the inside because of a wheelchair.
Now chided by schoolmates and church associates as "Deerslayer," April totally rejects the notion that she can't do it again. "You just give me a chance," she said.
The chance may come again.
The sponsoring groups have other hunts for handicapped in the plans. Hunter havens like Davis Island and Rifle Point are scheduled as well private land. These hunts will be as little or as much as volunteers can spare time, from half-a-day to full days, or more.
A hunt for only wheelchair confined hunters is scheduled January 10 in the Tensas Wildlife Refuge with federal agents running the hunt. That hunt is on a lottery basis with only 15-20 openings.
April, who lives in Fort Necessity, is only one of several Franklin Parish handicapped hunters who are likely seeking a spot on the Tensas hunt.
Chris Duke, a Liddieville member of the Wheelin' Sportsmen, has spent the 11 years since an oilfield accident in Africa in a wheel chair. He got two of the doe killed on the Nov. 1 hunt and would like to be in the Tensas party.
Duke had the unique opportunity of having his 13-year-old son in the stand.
Other disadvantaged Franklin Parish hunters in the party were: Seth Barfield, Gilbert; Dustin McMurray, Baskin; Chris Nealy, Jigger; and Hunter Boyd, Liddieville.
Robinson, who serves as a board member for the state Wild Turkey Federation and a vice president for the local chapter, said the hunt where April was so successful met its goal.
"We want them to have some of the same pleasures we get from being outdoors," he said. "We learn something from them every time we go out."
Duke said the hunters were all grateful.
"It's hard to say how much we appreciate this," he said. "It helps other see that we're not just people in wheel chairs."
April, who can now recall just about every moment of the day of her life, so far, sums the end of the day Nov. 1 this way:
"It was a lot of people smiling