January 17, 2013

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Even though David Brown wasn’t among the 11 hunters who bagged a deer during the annual Buckmasters Life Hunt at Sedgefields Plantation near Safford, Ala., the reward was just being there.

Brown doesn’t remember what happened on September 11, 2010, but it was horrific. A corporal in the Montgomery Police Department, Brown was on duty as a motorcycle policeman for a funeral procession. It was Brown’s duty to close side streets in advance of the procession, which required him to pass the procession en route to the next intersection. As Brown was moving to the next intersection, a member of the procession unexpectedly pulled out and didn’t see Brown coming. The collision left Brown with life-threatening injuries. To exacerbate Brown’s tenuous position, the ambulance that was transporting him to the hospital could not negotiate an on-ramp and tipped over on its side.

Brown ended up with head trauma and lost his left arm and right leg because of the injuries. Before his accident, Brown was a hunter and angler, but the thing he missed most was that fresh air of the outdoors.

“Being outside is the main thing, and being able to hang out with the people who enjoy the same things that you do,” Brown said as he guided his motorized wheelchair around the ever-present campfire, a tribute to the legacy of Jimmy Hinton, the late patriarch of the family who donates the use of Sedgefields for the Buckmasters event. “Getting a chance to come to Buckmasters has been a real pleasure.

“They feed you good and they assist you to do the thing you were able to do before you got hurt. They transport you around to the different hunting stands. They help you in any way you need help.”

Tommy Brown, David’s father, admits the rehabilitation has been a long, difficult process, but both are optimistic.

“We’re progressing fairly well on the learning how to walk part,” said the elder Brown. “We’re having a little problem getting the prosthesis properly fitted for him so it doesn’t bother him when he walks. He’s progressing pretty well, in my opinion. We do rehab three times a week for two hours at a time. My main part is taking him back and forth to rehab.”

David spent almost three months in intensive care at Baptist South in Montgomery and then was transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.

“The Shepherd Center is a wonderful place for a spinal cord injury, brain injury or real serious physical injury,” said the elder Brown. “It’s a wonderful rehabilitation place.”

Being able to participate in the Buckmasters Life Hunt is a rehabilitation that can’t be found in hospitals, said Brown’s father.

“My son loves hunting,” he said. “This is an outlet for him to get him out of the doldrums of not being able to do anything. He wants to be independent. Being outside like this gives him comfort.”

The Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association (ACEOA) sponsors a hunter for the Bucksmasters event, and Rusty Morrow, ACEOA Executive Director, said the organization has been waiting for Brown’s recovery to reach a point to where he was able to participate.

“When Cpl. Brown got hurt, we felt like he was one of our own,” Morrow said. “It’s the same with the police departments around the state, the State Troopers, Marine Patrol and Enforcement Officers with Marine Resources; we’re all a big family.

“We followed Cpl. Brown closely after the accident, like thousands of other people around Montgomery. We felt like once he was able, we wanted to be the ones to get him back in the outdoors first. We’ve been blessed with the number of people who support our Conservation Enforcement Officers. We’re able to do this because of them.”

Brown said he was humbled by being picked by the ACEOA.

“I thought it was really generous, and I really appreciate getting to go,” Brown said. “The stuff you get to do, being outside and hanging out with people like this has been really nice. I saw a six-point that wasn’t quite big enough. I enjoyed watching him, but we decided to let him live another day.”

Alabama State Trooper Bryan Hamrick, an experienced hunter who was formerly with Montgomery PD, helped Brown during the Buckmasters hunt.

“I don’t have to do much,” Hamrick said. “He does most of it himself. I’m just here in case he needs a little extra hand. I set the gun up for him, and that’s all I have to do. He’ll tell me what he wants to shoot and what he doesn’t.”

For Buckmasters founder and CEO Jackie Bushman, the Life Hunt is a celebration of overcoming disabilities to continue a beloved outdoors lifestyle.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years that we’ve been doing the Buckmasters Life Hunt,” Bushman said. “To see the smiles on all these hunters’ faces is something I always look forward to. We always hope to get them a deer, and we’ve been blessed to get everybody an opportunity. The teamwork with the Hinton family and all the guides, Big Bill (Busbice) with Wildgame Innovations helping sponsor the event, and the Swamp People being here, it’s three days that are special to everybody.

“Through the stories and TV shows, the people with disabilities who didn’t think they could get back out there, we’ve shown them a way that they can get back in the outdoors. I think that’s the most successful aspect of this event. To date, we’ve taken more than 7,000 disabled and terminally ill people into the field. If this touches you, please get in touch with us at buckmasters.com and we’ll let you know how you can help.”

Other than Troy, Jacob and Chase Landry of the Swamp People, stars from the world of Major League Baseball also joined in making the hunt special. Tuscaloosa native David Robertson, a relief pitcher for the New York Yankees, presented the participants with an official Yankees jersey, while Huntsville native Craig Kimbrel, also a relief pitcher, passed out official Atlanta Braves game caps.

“It’s an honor to be invited here,” said Kimbrel, who enjoys bowhunting with fellow Braves reliever Jonny Venters. “It’s a great cause. It’s awesome to see these people get to hunt and all the smiles on their faces.

“It really makes you think about the things you complain about on a day-to-day basis. We really have no reason to complain. It’s great to get to see everyone get a chance to hunt and have fun and be happy.”

PHOTOS: (By David Rainer) David Brown, former Montgomery motorcycle policeman, enjoys being outdoors during the Buckmasters Life Hunt with Rusty Morrow, left, of the ACEOA and friend and hunting partner Bryan Hamrick. The Swamp People (from left) Jacob, Troy and Chase Landry join Buckmasters founder Jackie Bushman in celebrating the nine-point buck Troy took during the Life Hunt.