Its all about smiles

A Deer For Devia  

Caldwell Hunt, November 2007



Growing up in the rural Alleghany County community of Glade Valley, Devia Eller developed a love for the outdoors.  Her northern mountain county provided all the ingredients for a young lady like herself to grow up a tomboy.  With ample deer and turkey throughout the county, at an early age she grew fond of accompanying her dad Eddie in pursuit of deer.

At age nineteen, life was fun and full of dreams for the blue-eyed blond.  Like most young adults, she was in the process of moving from one stage of life to another.  However, fate would intervene late one summer night.  Only five minutes from home, a tragic car accident left Devia's young body battered and clinging to life.  Hours turned to days, days to weeks and weeks to months. 

Devia had eluded death but only due to her unwavering sprit to not give up.  Devia's life was spared but her body was not.  In the end, she would be paralyzed from the neck down. 

Living life one day at a time, Devia gained enough use of her left hand to operate an electric wheelchair.  This past Thursday afternoon and sixteen years later, a spirited Devia Eller used that same hand to guide her chair through the door of the Caldwell Community Center in Orange County.  It would be her first attempt at going hunting since her life changing accident sixteen years earlier.

This would be no ordinary hunt.  The entire community of Caldwell was sponsoring this three-day event.  Seventeen handicapped sportsmen had been invited from across the state for a three-day deer hunt.  The NC Handicapped Sportsmen Inc., along with several other key people, like Ed Richardson of the Wake County Wildlife Club, had put the special event together.  The folks of the Caldwell Community, the Caldwell Hunting Club and the local FFA, would provide guides, places to hunt, process the deer and provide food, lots of food.  All of this at no cost to the hunters.

Most of the participants had arrived by early afternoon.  Some were missing a leg.  Some were using crutches or a walker.  At least half were confined to a wheelchair.  Their zeal and longing for the thrill of the chase was lifting spirits and putting smiles on faces that mostly knew pain.  Coming through the door, you could instantly tell that Devia Eller was special and it showed on everyone present.  Her warm smile and charm immediately resonated in the eyes and faces of the several dozen that were present.  It quickly became evident that she was even more handicapped than the others.  At least most of them had the use of an arm.

Devia's guides would be local residents Richard McGhee and Jerry Warren.  She would be hunting on private land less than two miles away.  Devia would be on the ground overlooking a large power line with a small green rye field.  A sheet of plywood had been placed on the ground for stability.  A large popup camo blind would provide concealment for Devia and her dad.  But, how was she going to use a firearm?  Enter the  "High Quad 100".  This amazing device would attach to her chair and hold her 30-06 rifle.  It would allow Devia, with the use of her chin, to control it's joystick and direct the rifle up, down, left and right.  It even had a small monitor called a "Trophy Shot", mounted on top of the rifles scope that allowed her to aim.  To pull the trigger, she would sip on a small straw type control.

A loving dad lifts his daughter from the vehicle and places her into the chair.  After sixteen years and many tears, she would be joining him on a hunt for the first time.  The thick, camo colored coveralls, are a welcome addition with temperatures in the low forties and a strong wind blowing out of the north.  Her mom Vickie, places a special scarf around Devia's neck.  Moments later, she and dad are left alone as the others leave the area.  Minutes tick by with only a squirrel darting out into her line of sight.  With dusk only moments away, her attention is focused on a large grey fox that is only a few feet away.  Seconds later, the reality of a much larger object standing behind the fox, has her taking a deep breath.  A large and beautiful six-point buck is now standing broadside in her sight lane.  Instinctively Devia goes into action.  A few seconds later, her first deer ever is lying on the ground.  A proud and jubilant teary-eyed dad congratulates his precious and special daughter.

   Tony Robinson - Outdoor Writer / retired NC Wildlife Officer

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