First Lady Tonette Walker

Wisconsin Heroes Award - Dale Petkovsek of Willard

Monday, November 26, 2012

Wisconsin first lady Tonette Walker surprised Dale Petkovsek of Willard with the Wisconsin Heroes Award on Monday for his work organizing the West-Central Clark County Hunt for Hunters with Disabilities.

Petkovsek, who became paralyzed in 1978 after being injured in an accident, first coordinated the hunt in 1999 to decrease the deer population near Willard and provide a deer camp experience for hunters with disabilities.

The first hunt drew 10 participants, while 60 people participated in the most recent hunt. The event is now the largest organized gun deer hunt in the nation and has hosted 657 hunters since 1999.

Seven of the 10 original hunters have returned year after year, Petkovsek said.

Petkovsek said he has received positive feedback from hunters who have participated.

"A lot of people made a lot of friends," he said.

Hunters range in age from 12 to 80 and have disabilities including high-level paralysis, blindness, amputations and heart and lung disease.

Petkovsek said guides are available to help hunters with whatever they need, but many hunters’ family  members assist.

The event lasts nine days and starts the first week of October, but Petkovsek works year-round to plan it.

Participating landowners must sign up by June 1, hunters must sign up by Sept. 1, and Petkovsek contacts sponsors to provide financial  support and donate door prizes all year.

During the hunt, Petkovsek matches hunters with guides and assigns hunting locations.

"Dale was brought up several months in a row, and we knew he was really deserving, but we wanted to wait until hunting season to give him the award," Walker said.

"It's an honor to receive the award, but to me, it’s more of an honor to be associated with so many people who are willing to help," Petkovsek said.

Petkovsek’s lifelong friend Scott Krultz nominated him for the award.

Krultz said Petkovsek has touched many lives by organizing the hunt.

"Ever since he started this hunt, I’ve been helping him out," Krultz said.

"If you see these hunters and the smiles on their faces talking about the deer they saw, and even if they missed, they’re still smiling."

Walker has presented a Heroes Award every month for the past 11 months to recognize heroic and voluntary acts by Wisconsin residents.

"We realized there were so many people in Wisconsin who were doing these wonderful things, and I know they don‘t want any recognition, but they deserve recognition," Walker said.

To learn more about the Wisconsin Heroes Award or to nominate a candidate, go to