AIKEN, S.C. – Twenty-five hunters recently participated in the 20th annual deer hunt for wounded military veterans and the mobility impaired, held at the Savannah River Site (SRS).
“I understand their commitment and devotion to duty due to my previous military service,” said Joe Solesby, the deer hunt program manager for EM contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), which manages the hunt. “Over time, I have come to fully realize the high value each of our guests place on attending this event held in their honor and for their enjoyment.”
The day begins with an early morning safety meeting and breakfast before the hunt takes place. Participants are assigned escorts who ensure their safety and provide assistance as needed. Meanwhile, volunteers work at a large outdoor grill to prepare a meal for when the hunt is finished.
Last year’s hunt saw a record number of harvested deer and hogs. Each harvested animal is prepared for the hunters to take home, or delivered to a charitable organization of their choice.
The mobility-impaired hunters are typically from the southeast U.S., while many of the wounded veterans are local residents.
Robert Starnes served in the U.S. Army for 30 years and has extensive back-related injuries. Getting out in the forest is an important experience for him.
“This was a wonderful opportunity, and we really appreciate it," Starnes said. "Getting to this hunt was a dream come true for me. I’ve wanted to do this for years.”
His son, Rob Starnes, an SRNS employee, served as his father’s escort.
“I really like to hunt and especially enjoy time in the woods with my son," the elder Starnes said. “Last year, I got a hog. I’m hoping for a deer this year.”
SRS offers over 150,000 acres of forest for hunting. The hunt helps reduce the site’s deer and hog population, decreasing the potential for auto and truck accidents.
“We experience a significant number of animal-vehicle collisions annually at SRS, and the hunts help to prevent these collisions,” said Tony Towns, natural resources program manager with DOE-Savannah River’s environmental quality management division. “Partnering with SRNS and our dedicated volunteers, we work to ensure a safe and controlled environment for our hunters.”