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Hunters with disabilities aim for deer at East Habor State Park

Tom Jackson • Oct 22, 2012 at 11:09 AM

So says Pete Vanko, 67, Berea, one of the hunters who's taken advantage of a special annual deer hunt at East Harbor State Park for hunters with physical disabilities.

The archery hunt, designed to thin the deer population to prevent overgrazing and other problems, returns on Nov. 17. Eight hunters chosen at random in a drawing will be allowed to harvest two deer each.

Applicants should submit a postcard with a printed name and address and the caption “Wheelin’ Sportsmen NWTF Hunt” to East Harbor State Park, 1169 North Buck Road, Marblehead OH 43440. Please submit only one postcards. Permits may not be transferred.

Vanko said that because he has no feeling in his lower legs — he’s been a paraplegic since he was in his teens — his legs can become dangerously cold. The volunteers who assist with the hunt have learned to equip the blinds with heaters, Vanko said.

Mike Monnett, assistant manager of East Harbor State Park, said the hunt began in 2008 and is carried out with the help of the Lakeshore Longbeard chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

State officials began the annual hunt when they realized many native plants at the park were being over-eaten by deer. Trimming the deer population also reduces crop losses on land next door and reduces the risk of vehicle-deer collisions on roadways, Monnett said.

Not all of the participants in the hunt are in wheelchairs, but all have a physical disability which makes it harder for them to participate in regular hunting. The hunt is limited to sportsmen using bows for safety reasons — there are many buildings and facilities in the area — and takes advantage of the existing archery season.

Ted Johnson, a park officer and a member of the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, founded the hunt. He said the NWTF supplies volunteers to help the hunter. An annual fund raising banquet helps fund the chapter’s activities, he said.

The Lakeshore Longbeards are building an archery range at East Harbor State Park and will make sure it is handicapped-accessible, he said.

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