Cold weather means it’s hunting season in Alabama. For Holtville native Paige Ray, it means so much more. “Hunting gives me life,” she says.
Ray was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease at a young age. After multiple back surgeries and permanent nerve damage throughout her extremities, she is forced to walk with a cane.
“I’ve been permanently disabled since 1997. There are some days that my husband has to carry me from room to room,” Ray says.
But on her good days, she is in the woods, waiting for her next deer. Ray is one of many hunters who use Alabama Power’s Jordan Dam Physically Disabled Hunting Area. The recreation site on Alabama Highway 111 in Holtville includes multiple green fields and shooting houses maintained by Alabama Power’s Shoreline Management and Environmental Affairs, and Southern Company Hydro Services.
Alabama Power also maintains sites for physically disabled hunters on Smith Lake and Lake Harris. All sites are maintained weekly and are open three days a week during the season. Hunters who want to use these sites must obtain paperwork from their doctor and be certified by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Reservations to hunt can be made through the R.L. Harris Shoreline Management Office at 256-396-5093.
Before the season starts, Ray makes her hunting schedule for the entire season. She hunts two to three times a week. “When you get sick or disabled, it is like life just ends,” she says.
Ray has been a hunter since her teens. She has competed in several bow hunting tournaments but became plagued by her physical ailments. After multiple surgeries, she was left homebound. “I became depressed,” Ray says.
But then her husband came home and handed her some information he had received regarding hunting sites for the physically disabled. “I immediately perked up,” she says.
She and her husband made plans to complete the paperwork and scheduled a hunt on the first day the Jordan site became available. “When the site opened and I saw how easy it could be, it was like I became alive again.”
Even when the season is over, Ray looks forward to the next season. “I do not know how to express how grateful I am to Alabama Power, the state of Alabama and whomever else is involved that allows me and others like me to go and enjoy doing something that we love so much. I cannot even put into words how much it means to me.”
Jordan Dam Physically Disabled Hunting Area is one of many disabled hunting areas throughout the state. Alabama Power is a partner with the state of Alabama’s Hunting & Fishing Trail for People with Physical Disabilities, a combination of public and private recreational sites.
Alabama Power hosts 64 public recreation sites, including five day-use parks, 32 boat ramps and a variety of day-use sites such as tailrace fishing piers, reservoir fishing piers, overlooks and handicapped hunting areas.
These sites can be found along the Warrior, Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers and the Yates, Thurlow and Holt reservoirs. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requires Alabama Power to provide recreational access to the public as a condition of being granted a license to generate electricity at the company’s dams. Please visit www.apcshorelines.com for more information.
*This story originally appeared in Shorelines.