Thanks to Wood and the other volunteers, that first event attracted 81 hunters and netted more than $60,000 for the school.
Wood credits two friends—Alan Jones and Mel Gilmer—with helping him get the inaugural hunt off and running. Others soon joined in. Before long, more than 100 volunteers had signed up.
Gilmer’s computer expertise helped spread the word about the deer hunt nationwide.
Buckmasters, located in Montgomery, also gave the event a big plug on its website.
“Many hunters go a lifetime without seeing the number of deer harvested on this land,” Morgan’s website says. “Trophy bucks are killed each year. January is the prime rutting time and the bucks will be on the move.”
There are thousands of deer hunts each year in the U.S. The trick for those who sponsor them is to get the hunters back the next year.
That’s where the parents come in at Morgan. Wood and deBuzna call their assistance invaluable.
“I think our food is what attracts so many hunters,” Wood said. “We have volunteers who are at the school cooking breakfast by the time the first hunters show up at 4 a.m.”
Wood said the dessert table is “10 yards” long and filled with every imaginable kind of sweet enticement.
“When the hunters arrive each year, all they seem to talk about—in addition to the deer—is the food, especially the dessert table,” Wood said. “It’s all homemade.”
“If you want the best at any school, you have to expect the best from the parents and their children,” said Gail
Bedgood, who is the Jackie of all trades at Morgan. She’s an administrator, a tour guide and anything else needed to promote her favorite school.
It costs $900 for the three-day hunt, but the trip can cost well over $1,000 because of gasoline and other expenses along the way. Most hunters drive to Dallas County for the hunt.
The school buys liability insurance to protect landowners who donate their property for the hunt. Wood also lines up a game warden to speak with the hunters before they go out, especially those who are hunting in Alabama for the first time.
In some states, deer season only lasts a few days. In Alabama, it’s three months. That’s one reason so many out-of-state hunters flock to Dallas and other counties where deer are plentiful and the season is more than long enough.
“We have more liberal hunting laws because we have such a large deer population,” Wood said. “Realistically, our hunters can bag two deer a day, but it usually doesn’t turn out that way.”
He said the Morgan Academy event is not a “deer slaughter.” He said no drinking is allowed and some hunters bring their children.
Thanks to Gilmer’s computer talents, hunters are not only able to claim a deer, they can also brag about it to the folks back home the same day.
“Pictures are taken and then transmitted to home computers around the country, showing our hunters with their kills that day,” Wood said.
Tuition at Morgan Academy is about $3,000 annually—an amount that deBuzna says is “remarkably low” when compared to other private schools in Alabama.
“Some schools charge three times what we do, but we don’t lack for any program or course they might offer,” the headmaster said. “We have all the science courses you’d expect at a high school along with foreign languages including French and Spanish.”
A New York native, deBuzna has lived in the South most of his 62 years. He’s an avid hunter and takes more than a passing interest in the fund-raiser at his school.
“We’ve gotten so big that we’ve split our hunting area into two regions,” he said. “One is north of the Alabama River and the other is south of the river.”
He said Alabama’s deer population is so large that it naturally attracts hunters from states “where they might only see two or three at a time.”
“I once counted 59 deer at one site,” he said. “We’re hunting over 44,000 acres and that’s plenty of land for everybody to enjoy. Without the land, we really couldn’t do much of anything.”