The 2016 UFFDA Camp Wilderness Hunt Report


The 2016 UFFDA Camp Wilderness Hunt Report

Reported by Daniel James Hendricks

          As the curtain rose on the stage for the 2016 Camp Wilderness Hunt, the scene was set in idyllic fall weather.  Brilliant blues skies, with leaves morphing into a cascade of cheery fall colors, all as the wild creatures of the far north busied themselves preparing for the inevitable Old Man Winter that would soon arrive, burying the landscape in a thick frosting of frigid, cold snow.  But for the present at least, pleasant conditions would persist and bless this year's hunt while winter remained but a distant threat.

          The usual early arrivals at Camp Wilderness were already hard at work completing the preliminary tasks that must be done every year in order for the event to take place.  Very few realize how much effort goes into this event behind the scenes before, during and after; efforts that remain unseen from the average attendee.  The planning meetings where menus are chosen, grocery list are written and inventories are determined and arranged.  Committees are constantly at work throughout the year making sure that everything will be there when the hunters began to arrive so that all can be fed, cared for and entertained over the course of the event.  Just the banquet itself and the task of feeding over two hundred people takes a great deal of planning and preparation.  Many days of planning and preparation by a score of people is necessary to bring about the culmination of three successful, face-paced days of making sure every aspect of the hunt is seen to and taken care of. 

          Guides were busy preparing hunting spots for our hunters by putting up blinds and readying the sites, while rekindling those special relationships that have been formed over the years with the kind landowners that allow our crew to use their properties to pursue the wily whitetail deer.  Over the years, the landowners of the Park Rapids area have become the unsung heroes of the hunt's success, while garnering new friends and participants in our annual celebration of the hunt.

          The Camp crew was busy getting the housing facilities in order and  stowing groceries and supplies, while making sure that the camp was ready to receive the onslaught of arrivals that would be knocking down the doors come Thursday morning.  Once the hunt began, the serenity that was so evident the first few days of the event would be washed away by the excitement and clamor of a full house of happy hunters, families and volunteers.

          Amid the hustle and bustle of preparation, the first day was all too quickly upon us as the party quickly kicked into high gear, taking off slowly at first, but then growing into the normal roar.  The arriving hunters and volunteers first came to the Black building to register.  There they were given their official hunt hats, pins and then assigned cabins if they were staying on grounds.  The hunters were escorted to their assigned quarters where they unpacked their gear and then immediately headed to the range with their bows to certify their marksmanship under the keen eyes of the Range Masters.  Each hunter is required to qualify on the range before they are allowed to head into the field.  The must prove the accuracy of their equipment as well as their own capability by placing three arrows into a predetermined target at 20 yards. Once these qualifications were met, and only when they are met, the hunters usually move up to the mess hall where coffee, tea, soft drinks and a wide variety of snacks are perpetually available for hunters and staff.  The mess hall serves as the social center of camp for the next three days as hunters, guides and volunteers gather there for companionship, cribbage games and refreshments.

          The first meal at camp was served at midday and then at around 2:30 p.m. the guides began to head into the field with their hunters for the first round of the chase.  They motored to the four winds full of great expectations and hopes for exciting adventures before the sun would set.  Family and friends waved goodbye with thumbs up for good luck… the hunt was on.

          No deer were taken that night, nor the next night for that matter.  It seemed that there was little that could go right.  Deer were being seen, but many remained too far away.  Everything seemed to go wrong and the meat pole remained unadorned with trophies.

          Saturday morning we finally received word that young Tyler Shepersky had brought down a button buck while hunting with guide and local landowner, Rick Knobloch.  Tyler is only 12 years old and our youngest hunter at the 2016 event.  On Thursday, when his bow string went bad, they took it to Delaneys Sports in Park Rapids, our go to spot when a serious mechanical problems arise.  Delaneys did not have a string to fix the bow, but volunteered one of their demo models so that Tyler could finish the hunt. 

          On Saturday morning, Tyler got lucky with his loaner by killing the button buck; a button buck that was not only the first deer of the hunt, but it was also the first deer that Tyler had ever taken in his very short deer hunting career.  Those that were there to help the young bowhunter recover his very first deer were worried that Tyler, because of his excitement and joy, was going to get up out of his wheelchair to help them get the deer out of the field.  It was a real celebration as word of Tyler's first deer spread through the camp like a wildfire… at long last, we were finally on the books.

          That evening things got serious.  Cindy Myhre got her first deer ever at an UFFDA hunt.  She had been coming for a lot of years and couldn't arrive at this year until Friday because of a scheduling conflict.  When she finally dig get there on Friday, she experienced equipment difficulties and did not get into field at all that day.  One day is all that she had to hunt, but that was all she needed to take a nice doe with her bow.

          Richard Arndt was hunting on the south side of Park Rapids with guide and landowner, Craig Rossman.  He managed to take two really nice does on the last night of the hunt, adding two more to the camp's final count.  And local guide and landowner, Al Bruns helped Dave Marttie bag a nice doe to add another to this year's tally.

          Tyler Shepersky still had a buck tag to fill and on Saturady evening, teamed up with local guide and landowner, Blake Johnson.  That winning combination of guide and sharpshooter tagged Tyler out with a fine fork-buck, also winning Tyler the Delaney's Big Buck Knife for the biggest and only legal buck of the hunt.  There was no doubt in anyone's mind, Tyler had had a very good day for himself and by the way, rumor has it that Tyler is now "the owner of a loaner" thanks to Delaney's Sports.  Tyler's forky brought the final total of animals taken at the 2016 hunt to six.  Not our best year on record, but far better than the worst.

          The Saturday night banquet always closes out the year with a gala celebration of bowhunting and community, and this year, as has become the custom, the Camp Wilderness mess hall was filled to the brim with happy people celebrating another grand year for all who had joined in the celebration. 

          A delegation of the Park Rapids Chapter of MDHA was on hand to present a nice donation to UFFDA Treasure Joanie Knoblock.  This very special group of hunters has been a mainstay in the history of the UFFDA Camp Wilderness and our organization is so very pleased and thankful to be affiliated with them.

          The Silver Arrow Award was presented to Jim Jordon Chapter of the MDHA from of Hinckley, MN for their continued support of our mission each year.  The Golden Arrow Award was presented to Richard Swenson of Park Rapids for his dauntless contributions made in an effort to maintain possession of each and every number one arrow that he can obtain.  Richard is also a Land Donor to our hunt and has been for going on eighteen years now.  Richard is one of the precious gems in our jewel box of local volunteers.

          The Kalk One-Shot Traveling Trophy went home with Kevin Sincleair this year after he made a perfect dead-center hit on the bullseye, clearly the most accurate shot of any of the participants. 

          As we mentioned earlier, Tyler Shepersky took home this year's Delaney's Big Buck Award with his first ever forky, while being guided by Blake Johnson.

          As usual there was a ton of great stuff on the silent auction and some even grander items donated for the live auction and special drawings.  It all provided a fun-filled, very lively evening of entertainment and laughter, all the while raising important dollars for the future of our Foundation.            Eventually all the chores on the to-do list were done and the evening's events came to a close.  The crowd was slow to disperse as no one seemed especially eager to leave the warm family feeling that had enveloped all that were present.

          This was the 22nd Annual event at Camp Wilderness and this long run of successful events would not be possible were it not for the very special people behind the scenes, the volunteers who dedicate so much of their personal time and talent to giving UFFDA life.  Many of these volunteers have nurtured the mission since the very first hunt back in 1995.  To all of the volunteers, whether you serve on the board of directors or wash dishes in the kitchen during the hunt, thank  you for all that  you do… without you we would be lacking and in need.

          To the local landowners who unselfishly share their land and wild critters with our hunters; and who go out of their way to make us feel at home as well as coming to participate in our annual celebration, thank you one and all.  You are the best and we are grateful for your support and friendship.

          To the Northern Lights Council of the BSA, thank you for allowing us the enjoyment and use of your beautiful reservation.  And especially to that reservation's Camp Ranger, Andy Kietzman, thank you… kind Sir.  You and your lovely family have become an engrained part of UFFDA and we love you all.  The dedication of your support and assistance to us while we are in camp by you and your staff is so very much appreciated, Andy and to top it all off, you are a great help center stage during our banquet.

          To the ladies and gentlemen of the Park Rapids area that provide us with sweet treats for our hunt, thank you for your delicious contributions that only add richness (and pounds) to our event each year.

          The donors are another important group that UFFDA is so very grateful for.  Those companies, organizations, clubs and individuals that donate equipment, merchandise, food and cash to help us carry through on our mission are the angels of our cause.  It is you, the benefactors that pump the life blood into our entity providing the raw materials and muscle necessary for us to complete our task.  Without your kind and generous support, we would still be just an idea waiting to happen.  Thank you one and all.  There is no donation ever too small, for each and every one, regardless of size, helps to create the whole, the entirety of the United Foundation For Disabled Archers.

          With the 2016 hunt put to rest, the cycle begins anew as we begin to move on towards next year's event in an effort to improve the way that we serve our community and bowhunters with disabilities.  If you have any suggestions or ideas of how we can better serve, please share them and any other comments you may have with the UFFDA main desk at 320-634-3660 or email at  See you in 2017.


Photo Captions:

2016 CW Hunt Report B

          Kids enhance UFFDA! Kids are the future of UFFDA!  And… we love our UFFDA kids!


2016 CW Hunt Report C

          Young Tyler Shepersky and his guide, Blake Johnson were a happy duo celebrating Tyler's first two deer ever and winning the Delaney's Big Buck Award.


2016 CW Hunt Report D

          Here are just a few of the local landowners that help to make our hunt such a fine success each year.


2016 CW Hunt Report E

          A delegation from the Park Rapids Chapter of the MDHA presents UFFDA Treasurer, Joanie Knobloch with a generous check to further the Corporate Mission.


2016 CW Hunt Report F

          Richard Swenson receives the 2015 UFFDA Golden Arrow Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Corporate Mission from UFFDA President, DJH


2016 CW Hunt Report G

          Hunter Dave Martti and his guide, Al Bruns pose with Dave's fine, fat doe taken the last evening of the hunt.