Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Another great handicapped hunt for deer at Muddy Run

By P.J. Reilly

Southeast Correspondent

Lancaster, Pa. — Darryl Yost doesn’t get around as well as he
used to. Muscular dystrophy has severely reduced the 61-year-old
Hatboro, Montgomery County, resident’s ability to control his

A retired Philadelphia police officer, Yost knows he can’t hunt
deer the way he did in his youth.

“I just can’t walk to my spots like I used to,” he said.

But he’s nowhere near ready to throw in the towel.

“I’ll quit hunting when I’m dead,” Yost said with a booming
laugh. “I’ve enjoyed this all my life.”

At dawn on the morning of Oct. 15, Yost was tucked in a portable
nylon ground blind that was planted at one end of a small clearing
beneath a transmission tower in Exelon Corp.’s Muddy Run Recreation
Park in Lancaster County.

He’d been delivered to his post before daybreak via all-terrain
vehicle as part of the park’s eighth annual deer hunt for the
handicapped. A total of 43 disabled hunters fanned out across much
of the park’s 700 acres to hunt for antlerless deer. Nineteen of
them took home deer.

Each of the hunters had a story of tragedy and determination.
All have a passion for hunting that’s so deep, they see their
canes, walkers and wheelchairs as ways to get into the woods,
rather than obstacles that might keep out others who share their

“I live for hunting and fishing,” said Earl Zellers, 75, of
Manheim, Lancaster County.

Zellers has been hunting since he was a kid. In fact, he
participated in several past archery and flintlock hunts for
able-bodied hunters that have been held at Muddy Run for

But that was before he was diagnosed with cancer five years ago.
Since then, the retired mechanic has undergone four operations to
remove large sections of his small intestine and colon.

The drive to hunt still burns within Zellers, he said, but his
body just can’t do what his heart and mind want. But on the Muddy
Run hunt, Zellers said, it doesn’t have to. Much of the physical
stress of hunting is taken care of by park manager Dave Byers and
his army of volunteers.

Transportation for the hunters around the park is provided by
all-terrain vehicles. Lunch is delivered to the hunters out in the
field or the hunters are taken to a picnic area. If a deer is
bagged, someone shows up to do the field dressing and the animal is
hauled out of the woods.

And dozens of orange-clad men and women who are happy to cash in
a vacation day or forfeit time with the family dive into Muddy
Run’s ample brier thickets to keep the deer moving past the hunters
all day long. The sweat and cuts and torn clothing are quickly
forgotten when a muzzleloader booms or a crossbow cracks.

Zellers bagged a big doe at 8:15 a.m. Oct. 15, with a 139-yard
shot. Bob Gerock, of Manheim, has been hunting with Zellers since
the 1960s. And he’s sat with his friend on each of the three Muddy
Run hunts in which Zellers has participated.

Gerock knows how important the hunt is to Zellers.

“Last year, (Zellers) wasn’t doing so well before the hunt,” he
said. “Then, after the hunt, he really perked up. Everybody noticed
it. It was amazing.”

When Yost sat in his blind, excitedly telling the story of how
he bagged his doe shortly after Zellers, he wasn’t a handicapped
hunter. He was just another hunter.

Yost missed the deer with his first shot, and so he had to
reload. Anyone who’s ever pursued deer with a muzzleloader could
relate to Yost as he described the ensuing anxious moments.

Angry that he had missed and worried that the doe would bolt,
Yost worked frantically to get more powder and another bullet
stuffed into the barrel of his rifle. When he tried to plunge
everything down with his ramrod, he kept stabbing the nylon roof of
his blind. “That thing was driving me crazy,” he laughed.

Yost’s aim was true on his second shot, and he bagged his third
deer in four years hunting at Muddy Run.

Nevin Horning, 65, of Oley, Berks County, used to spend many
October days traipsing through grapevine tangles in search of
ruffed grouse or alongside fencerows, hoping to flush a

Those days are gone now. In 2000, the retired U.S. Postal
Service clerk was diagnosed with a rare, progressive condition that
has caused extensive muscle and nerve damage in both his legs.

He’s lost a great deal of muscle and tissue mass below his knees
and he wears a pair of braces that essentially take all of his
weight off his legs. Horning can walk, but not without a cane or
some other support. “Basically, I have no balance or strength,” he
said. “And I can’t shoot standing up.”

That was no problem Oct. 15. Horning was seated on a chair in a
small woodlot when five deer meandered to within 75 yards of him
around 7:15. One shot from Horning’s inline muzzleloader garnered
him the first deer of this year’s hunt. It was Horning’s first time
hunting at Muddy Run.

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