The National Deer Association (NDA) once again teamed up with Baptist Homes & Healthcare Ministries this season to host some very special Field to Fork events for 16 senior residents at four Baptist Homes’ campuses across Missouri.
Originally drawn from the inspiration of Dr. Rodney Harrison, President of Baptist Homes & Healthcare Ministries, these events have proven to be life-changing for the senior residents and create a unique opportunity to focus on the reactivation part of the R3 hunting program; recruit, retain, and reactivate. This year, though, half of all participating seniors were first-time deer hunters!
At the Arcadia Valley campus, seven hunters got out on the 160-acre campus to try to harvest a deer with Mission Crossbows in late September of Missouri’s archery deer season. The hunters started the day with some education provided by NDA’s Deer Outreach Specialists as well as shooting instruction at the range. Once the hunters finished at the range, they headed inside for a nice lunch that included delicious venison smash burgers. After lunch, the hunters got ready and headed to their blinds with their mentors for an evening hunt.
Several deer were seen, but none offered a shot for the hunters that evening. The next morning, the hunters went out again and saw a few deer as well as some wild turkeys. One of the hunters was even able to take a shot with her crossbow at a turkey and clipped its tailfeather — so close! She will forever be known as “Tailfeather Judy” around the campus as she went around after her exciting hunt to tell other residents the story.
At the Ozark campus, four hunters were able to go afield for the event and this year they went during the November portion of firearms deer season instead of during the archery season like they did last year. The hunters and mentors saw deer, turkeys, a bobcat, and even a few coyotes from the blinds.
Three of the four hunters harvested deer at the event for our first senior Field to Fork deer harvests! Mr. Delbert Dickson was able to go deer hunting for the first time, harvested his first deer ever, and shot a gun for the first time in over 60 years at the spry young age of 94! His grandson, Jim, was his mentor for the hunt and not only got to witness Delbert harvest his first deer, but Jim was able to also share the event with his dad, who helped his other grandpa harvest a deer from a nearby blind!
Due to a recent acquisition of the campus by Baptist Homes & Healthcare Ministries, senior residents at the Tri-City (Vandalia) location were given the opportunity to participate in one of their own special Field to Fork programs. The residents took advantage of this expansion, as three individuals, including two first-time hunters, quickly signed up to participate!
Several deer were seen, including multiple does and fawns, and even one of the landowner’s target bucks. Unfortunately, the two-day event came and went without a harvest, but it was still considered a success by all involved. As one reactivated senior hunter stated, “This was a great experience. I was just tickled pink to be able to see the sunrise and watch the squirrels run!”
In Ashland, two senior residents and first-time hunters were able to celebrate the holiday season and close out Missouri’s Alternative Methods Deer Season by participating in the final Field to Fork event for the 2023 calendar year.
After the traditional educational session, the hunters and mentors loaded up in vehicles to make a special trip to visit former NDA Deer Outreach Specialist Karli Gill at Safari Unlimited. There, participants enjoyed a class on muzzleloader safety and were treated with warm beverages to fight the cold winter chills before heading to the range for further shooting instruction and target practice.
During the program, the senior hunters and mentors were treated to a beautiful sunset, a few falling snowflakes, and multiple deer sightings. Although none came into range during legal shooting hours, this event, along with all the special Field to Fork programs with Baptist Homes & Healthcare Ministries were a huge success. So much so, that staff from Baptist Homes & Healthcare Ministries plan to expand these special Field to Fork programs in 2024, with the goal of hosting five events to recruit, retain, and reactivate 20 senior hunters as well as some of their staff members!