Awhile back I made my annual pilgrimage to Indian Creek Outfitters in Hardin County as a guest of Mike Davison and his dad Barney, and came away two things: a plump doe for the freezer and an update on Hunting for a Cure, one of the most uplifting causes I've ever come across.
I've been hunting on the Davisons' farms for almost a decade, and it's worth the drive. The scenery is spectacular, and the area, located near the Tennessee River not far from the Shiloh Battlefield, is steeped in Civil War history.
I do most of my deer hunting in Giles and Wilson Counties, but the trip to Indian Creek provides a change of scenery -- literally and figuratively. The icy water in Indian Creek, which tumbles along towering limestone cliffs, has a bright turquoise color unlike any I've seen elsewhere. Farms make a quilt-work of the rich bottomland, bordered by thousands of acres of hardwoods and conifers. It's a whitetail paradise.
I take only does, because the Davisons manage their farms -- they have five -- for big bucks. Indian Creek Outfitters offer a limited number of hunts to the public every season, and I leave the big antlers for the trophy hunters.
I bring home more than fresh venison from Indian Creek. Every time I chat with Mike and Barney, I come away with a refreshed appreciation for the innate goodness in folks -- the "better angels of our nature" as Lincoln put it.
Nine years ago the Davisons launched "Hunting for a Cure" -- guided spring turkey hunts for youngsters, the proceeds from which go to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.
The first hunt in 2005 attracted a handful of mostly local hunters, and donations totaled about $2,000. Last year's hunt drew 62 youngsters from eight states, and generated $101,060. The nine-year total stands at $633,910.
The event is a 501(c)3 charitable organization, and 100% of the revenue goes to the Children's Research Hospital.
"Nobody with Hunting for a Cure is paid," Mike says. "All the work is done by volunteers, and every penny we raise goes to Children's Hospital."
A wide range of outdoor celebrities and even a Tennessee Titans cheerleader from nearby Savannah have participated in the event over the years. In addition to the turkey hunt, a dinner and auction are held. All of the items that are auctioned off, which range from a classic Gibson Guitar to hunting gear and a cooker from Bass Pro Shops, are donated.
The hunt is open to youngsters age 16 and under, and held during the weekend of the TWRA's Young Sportsman Turkey Hunt, which next spring is March 22-23.
In exchange for a donation, each young hunter is provided an experienced guide who handles blinds, calling and other details. A parent or guardian is invited to accompany the youngster to share in the experience. The guides, like others involved in the project, volunteer their services.
Over the years more and more neighbors have joined the Davisons in making their farmland available, which now totals several thousand acres of prime turkey territory. There are no guarantees of success, because the hunting is authentic, but the chances of a youngster bagging a bird are good.
"It's very rewarding for everybody involved," Mike says. "It gets kids involved in turkey hunting, and it generates money to fight childhood diseases. Every year it get bigger and bigger, which means more work for everybody -- but it also brings in more donations, so it's worth it."
For details about the 2014 event, visit the Hunting for a Cure website. It's a great project run by great people. And the hunting's not bad, either.