Rydell refuge holds youth deer hunt; organizers decide not to reschedule Options hunt

The government shutdown ended in time for Rydell National Wildlife Refuge to hold its annual youth deer hunt last weekend, but organizers have decided not to reschedule a hunt for people with disabilities.

Sponsored by Options Interstate Resource Center for Independent Living in East Grand Forks, the 18th annual hunt for people with disabilities had been scheduled for Oct. 10-12.

Rydell National Wildlife is located near Erskine, Minn.

Randy Sorenson of Options said two weekends were open before Minnesota’s Nov. 9 firearms deer opener. Ultimately, though, organizers decided not to reschedule the disabled hunt because rounding up the volunteers required to make the event go smoothly would have been too difficult, Sorenson said.

“We rely on a core group of skilled knowledgeable volunteers that know the Refuge very well and have knowledge of various types of disabilities and the handicaps faced while hunting,” Sorenson said in an email. “These volunteers had already taken time off from work for the previous hunt dates and now that we are so close to the regular season many are getting their own hunts ready, so we would have reduced numbers of these volunteers. If an emergency (fire, storm) came up we need enough skilled people in order to get out to the stands very quickly so we can get the hunters out safely.  I also hesitate because of the unfairness to the hunters that cannot attend who live great distances away, they were chosen also.

“It disturbs me and I feel bad but I see no other recourse in order to insure the hunt is safe and to be fair to all involved.”

Dave Bennett, manager of Rydell and nearby Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge, said eight hunters participated in last weekend’s youth hunt, shooting two small bucks.

“I believe they all had opportunities to take deer,” Bennett said. “I truly believe the cooler weather caught a few of them off guard, and they weren’t quite acclimated to the fall temperatures.”

Bennett said deer have been active and on the move around the refuge in the cooler weather. He didn’t have specific numbers but said the refuge’s deer population seems to be on par, or slightly higher, than last year.

“They all seem to be in very good shape,” Bennett said. “We had a set of triplets in the yard and several twin fawns within a half-mile of refuge headquarters. All of those fawns have lost spots and look like they’re in very good shape. I think farmers getting crops off the field have brought deer back into their traditional habitats.”

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