Lowcountry Dreams: New state law utilized for youth deer hunt
The very best of South Carolina’s outdoor values and traditions of friendship and love of the land were on display at the Lowcountry Dreams Youth Deer hunt.
by David Lucas
Jacob New, from Saluda, S.C., can flat tell a story. The young man with bright red hair and a splash of freckles across his face might even have a career as a professional comedian when he grows up, but right now he’s simply a hunter through and through, albeit one whose infectious enthusiasm for the outdoors and the pursuit of game will bring a smile to your face in a hurry.
On a recent Friday afternoon – one of those spectacular early-fall Lowcountry afternoons where the setting sun seems suspended in the western sky forever and if you’re quiet you can just hear the sound of acorns hitting the ground with every welcome breeze – Jacob and seven other youth hunters got ready to head into the field with parents and volunteer guides at historic White Hall Plantation in Colleton County. The young hunters and their families were participants in the 2017 “Lowcountry Dreams” hunt organized by White Hall property manager Tommy Crosby and his wife Tammy. White Hall’s owners, the Chilton family of Connecticut, donated the use of the well-managed 8,500-acre plantation for the hunt, and a long list of sponsors and volunteers contributed their time, money and resources to make it happen.
All of the participants in the hunt were sponsored by the Outdoor Dream Foundation (ODF), a volunteer-driven non-profit organization based in Anderson, S.C. that works with sick and injured children from all across the United States and has a close working relationship with three pediatric oncology centers located in South Carolina. ODF organizes and sponsors outdoor adventures such as hunting and fishing trips for young people who are dealing with serious, and in some cases life-threatening, illnesses. Earlier this year, ODF’s efforts at getting these boys and girls and their families out into the field for a big dose of outdoor fun – the kind that can make a kid’s (or even a grownup’s) eyes light up with delight and excitement – got a welcome boost when the S.C. General Assembly passed a new law that allows the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to waive license fees for ODF youth hunters and anglers. The SCDNR has long been involved in sponsoring youth hunting opportunities through its Take One Make One and other youth education programs.
Just before time for the standers to load up and go to the stands, a group of volunteers stood listening to Jacob, or “P-Nut” as he is affectionately known by friends and family, animatedly telling a story about a hog hunt he had been on recently. In no time flat, P-Nut’s mile-a-minuteacted-out descriptions of a recent encounter with a group of wild hogs that would have done Jerry Clower proud had everyone in earshot doubled over with laughter. They say that laughter is the best medicine, and that, along with a lot of camaraderie and a shared love for the outdoors and the hallowed traditions of the hunt is what the experience of an ODF-sponsored hunt here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina delivers.
The outdoor adventures that his son, Dawson, age 14, has been able to experience since the family became involved with ODF have been a real blessing, said Steven Swaney of Pendleton. In addition to the White Hall hunt, Dawson was also able to participate in a fishing tournament earlier this year. The time spent together in the field is something both father and son look forward to. When a serious illness that requires multiple visits to doctors and specialists and time spent in the hospital hits a family, those necessary priorities can make it difficult to plan other activities such as hunting or fishing. ODF makes that possible.
The group hunted Friday evening and Saturday morning before tucking in to a hearty breakfast of eggs, grits, bacon and sausage gravy cooked outside by volunteers, including quite a few off-duty SCDNR officers and members of the agency’s “Take One Make One” (TOMO) youth hunting and mentorship program. Before breakfast, SCDNR Director Alvin Taylor spoke to the group about the new law and thanked all the volunteers and sponsors that make hunts like this possible.
“The opportunity to be a part of this is just great for SCDNR, said Taylor. When you look at the list of people involved in this you realize very quickly it’s ALL about partnerships and people working together. Last year, with the help of many of you here, and the bulldogging efforts of [retired SCDNR law enforcement officer and ODF board member] Chip Sharpe, we were able to get the law passed that allows me the opportunity to grantlicense waivers for these families that are taking part in these hunts. Our officers have been a part of these hunts for years, and we will continue to be huge supporters of what happens here.”
During the hunt, three white-tailed deer – including two nice bucks – were taken, as well as two wild hogs. More importantly, some lasting friendships were made, and the enduring power of spending time in the great South Carolina outdoors in fellowship with family and friends, a tradition as old as the Palmetto State itself, created some lasting memories that these young hunters will carry forward with them for the rest of their lives.
Below: Photos of Friday night's successful hunt courtesy of Lowcountry Dreams.