A Helping Hand

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Published on: Sep. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

The onset of a physical disability, even if it is permanent, may not mean the end of the pleasures of fishing and hunting. Twenty-four years ago doctors told me I had chronic, progressive multiple sclerosis, a disabling disease of the central nervous system. I have had to make adjustments over the years, but I am still enjoying the outdoors.

I am first and foremost a bow hunter. Disabled hunters may use a cross-bow, but for now I am still using a compound bow. For those of us with disabilities, bow hunting carries with it problems not faced when hunting with a firearm. Most successful archers hunt from a tree stand, but climbing a tree is especially challenging for a hunter with disabilities.

Friends built me a 4-foot-by-4-foot platform using three oak trees we found conveniently grouped together. I use an inclined stairway to reach the platform, slowly ascending on all fours. Safety is of paramount importance in all types of elevated stand hunting. A safety belt is needed to belt yourself in, even if you are sitting down.

I am unable to stand for long periods and require a good seat on my hunting platform. A seat from a boat works well. I have placed a nail through the seat so that it does not rotate until I am seated and withdraw the nail. This arrangement won't win any engineering awards, but it works.

Commercial ladder stands are available with rotating seats. Their advantage over a fixed stand would be that they can be moved to a different hunting site on short notice. Disabled bow hunters who cannot climb at all will want to build a blind on the ground.

If I don't have someone to take me into the woods in the morning, I get to my stand in the predawn darkness in an old four-wheel drive truck. I leave my bow tied to a string for hoisting into my stand, then drive the truck a hundred yards away and hide it in a clump of cedars. Deer don't seem to be too greatly spooked by a truck parked in the woods. My old truck, which I have crudely camouflaged, is 20 years old and I don't take it in polite society anymore.

You can still hunt even if you require a walker, arm crutches, shoulder crutches or even a wheel chair. One acquaintance hunts from an all-terrain vehicle. Friends have to help him onto it

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