VERSAILLES — Sponsors of a deer hunt for impaired combat veterans pledged Monday night to do a better job communicating with neighboring property owners.
The meeting of about two dozen people was held to air complaints and questions about a Nov. 10 hunt that took some residents by surprise.
The Wounded Warrior hunt will be held again this fall on the property that's part of Kentucky Utilities' Tyrone power plant and on the wooded acreage of the Life Adventure Center. Both properties are west of Versailles.
Some neighbors were notified about the hunt, but others were surprised by the amount of gunfire on the opening weekend of modern firearms hunting. Even those who knew about the hunt, including Woodford County farmer Rusty Thompson, were taken aback by the amount of shooting.
"It sounded like a machine gun," Thompson said after Monday night's meeting at the Cooperative Extension Service.
Everyone who attended the meeting said they supported the purpose of the Wounded Warrior Project, which is to get wounded veterans out and socializing with others as a therapeutic means of healing.
"No one here questions the validity of the program," Brian Smith said. "It was the manner in which 40 deer were taken on one weekend in a concentrated area."
The 40 deer were killed on the KU property alone; 14 more were shot on adjacent land. All 54 were shot by 11 veterans who were exempt from buying licenses for the deer they killed, said Joe Lacefield, a private lands wildlife biologist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Deer populations are abnormally high on the KU and Life Adventure Center properties, so the hunt was a way to thin those herds and provide a service to wounded veterans, Lacefield said.
One compromise that resulted from the meeting is that organizers agreed to postpone the hunt until the second weekend of the modern firearms season. That way, neighboring landowners will have a chance to hunt on their lands and not have all the deer scared off by the Wounded Warrior hunt.
Similar hunts have been held at Blue Grass Army Depot in Madison County, where military officials try to thin the deer population to reduce the likelihood of collisions with vehicles.
The Woodford County hunt also provided more than 1,000 pounds of meat to needy families through a program known as Kentucky Hunters for the Hungry.
Iraq veteran Cliff Pettyjohn, who participated in the Woodford hunt, said it helped him immensely to get out with others.
"It was a great experience," Pettyjohn said.
Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.