Youth, Veterans Enjoy Opportunities to Hunt at HCWA Walnut Creek Site

     As the most recent deer hunting season concluded last week (Jan. 14, 2024) in Georgia, the Henry County Water Authority (HCWA) likewise reflected on a successful schedule of public hunts, which provided youth and veterans a unique opportunity to hunt on Authority property.

     The HCWA hunting season is one of many ways the utility provides opportunities for outdoor recreation and education for customers. The Authority hosted three local hunts this past fall at its Walnut Creek Land Application Site, which consists of approximately 1,000 acres of protected green space. 

     The first HCWA Youth Hunt on Oct. 21 featured 28 youth, ranging from 10 to 17 years old, who were selected by lottery from a total of 40 applicants. The event yielded a harvest of 27 deer. The second Youth Hunt on Nov. 4 saw 27 participants chosen out of 35 applicants harvest 25 deer. Finally, the HCWA Veteran’s Hunt on Nov. 18 welcomed 30 veterans who harvested 14 deer. 

     The Georgia Department of Natural Resources – the state regulatory agency that assists the HCWA with maintaining a healthy deer population on its properties – promotes these types of hunting events on sizable tracts of land. In addition to hosting these hunts for the enjoyment of local youth and veterans, the HCWA utilizes public hunts as a part of its land management plan to continue good stewardship of natural resources, as recommended by the state. 

     Sponsors of the fall hunting events included the HCWA, its Cubihatcha Outdoor Education Center, and Southside Sportsman Association.

     Allen Rape, HCWA Division Manager and a veteran himself, enjoyed welcoming the 30 veterans chosen for this past year’s Veteran’s Hunt.

     “The Walnut Creek site is a great place to host such an event for our veterans who have served our country, and it allows us an opportunity to give back and to thank them for their service,” says Rape, who served four years in the Marines and 17 years in the Army Reserve. “I love being around these men and women, and I enjoy how everyone shares the stories of their service. I get more out of this than I would if I was hunting,” adds Rape, who is one of many HCWA employees who go the extra mile to host quality public hunts.

     Isaac Borges, Jr. was one of the 30 veterans to enjoy the HCWA Veteran’s Hunt. He served 42 years in the U.S. Army, including tours in Vietnam, during Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. As a disabled veteran, Borges was able to enjoy a day hunting thanks to the efforts of HCWA staff, who constructed a hunting blind accessible by wheelchair to accommodate his disability. 

     “This is the first time I’ve been out in about two years, and it’s been four years or so since I’ve been hunting,” says Borges, who was disabled after a bout with Covid three years ago. “I came out to the site about two months prior to the event and the Water Authority staff showed me how they were constructing a blind for me to use during the hunt. I think they really have a blueprint for how to accommodate disabled citizens by making everything wheelchair accessible.”

     Borges noted that his son and grandson have been selected in past years for the HCWA Youth Hunts, so they encouraged him and convinced him to give the HCWA Veteran’s Hunt a try. He says he was glad he did.

     “The Water Authority was outstanding and very responsive, building ramps and platforms and having a van drop me off and pick me up at the blind,” adds Borges. “They did everything they could to be accommodating.”

     Erin Harris is a female veteran who enjoyed the hunt with her husband Dwayne, a Battalion Chief for the Henry County Fire Department. Following her military service, she spent 30 years in law enforcement, including service with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office and the Locust Grove Police Department. 

     “I felt very honored to be selected for the Veteran’s Hunt, because there are only so many spots available,” says Harris, who now works for Southwest Airlines. “I love the environment and I love that this event is very inclusive. My son has participated in the youth hunts and has enjoyed them as well. I like that many on the Water Authority staff are not veterans, yet they go out of their way to host a great event.”

     Harris says a highlight of the Veteran’s Hunt is the opportunity it affords her to talk to some of the older veterans in Henry County, including those who served in Vietnam.

     “Henry County is a great community, especially in its support of military and law enforcement personnel, like through events such as this.”

Captions for photos (top to bottom)

     The HCWA hosted 30 local veterans for an annual Veteran’s Hunt at the utility’s Walnut Creek LAS facility to conclude the Authority’s 2023 Hunting Season.

     Grandfather Isaac Borges, Jr. (left), who served 42 years in the U.S. Army, is joined by his son Mike (center/back) and grandson Ethan (right), inside a blind that was custom made to accommodate his disability during the most recent HCWA Veteran’s Hunt.

     The HCWA staff goes the extra mile to provide excellent customer service for guests during the fall hunting season, taking hunters to and from blinds in ideal locations for their convenience and enjoyment.


Media Contact:     Chris Wood, Ph.D.

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