A Helping Hand

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Published on: Sep. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

at the beginning of the day and back off of it again when his hunt is over, but it works well for him.

I use a walker in my everyday activities, but while a four- footed walker is fine on floors or other level surfaces, it does not work well in the woods. Arm crutches work fine for me on uneven surfaces, better than shoulder crutches. My trail through the woods with these looks like that of a confused alligator, but they get me into the outdoors. If disabled hunters realize they can't go as far, or as fast and certainly not as quietly as was once the case, they can still position themselves for some quality hunting.

Dis abled hunters may need more shooting practice than others. Although my arms are still strong enough to handle a 50- pound compound bow, I need constant work to maintain that strength and constant shooting practice to keep my skills up. My exercise equipment is as simple as a plastic jug of anti- freeze.

By gripping the handle, I can swing the weight vigorously, both laterally and vertically. This seems to add badly needed strength and control to my bow anchor arm. And while practicing shooting, retrieving the arrows after each shooting round can be demanding, but I take my time and sometimes use my truck to transport me to and from the target.

I also hunt with a gun. A disabled person hunting from the ground needs the cover of a good blind to hide the extra movements required to get into position for a shot. My blind has a slit all the way around it for shooting, and I use the same type of rotating seat I have in my tree stand. Even a wheelchair-bound hunter could hunt comfortably and safely from my blind.

I am always concerned about the amount of noise I make getting into my blind in the morning, especially when turkey hunting in the spring. First there is the noise of my truck, and then I must use a light to walk into my blind because my balance is almost entirely visual. Even at that, this spring a gobbler sounded off no more than a couple of hundred yards from my blind, and I was able to call him into shooting range.

Disabled duck and goose hunters should be able to hunt from a fixed blind without too many problems. Hunting upland birds, where hunters normally walk miles in a day, could be trying. A four-wheel all terrain vehicle might make it possible. Modification of the truck controls, allowing them to be worked by knee pressure or by foot, might be needed.

If you hunt with dogs, they might have to learn to tolerate the engine noise creeping up from behind while they are on point. I'll bet a dedicated wing shooter, though disabled, can find a way to pursue his sport.

Fishing is another outdoor sport that is well within the capability of the disabled. And while wade fishing, at one time my favorite, is beyond many of the disabled, lake fishing lends itself to our problem. Even for those confined to a wheelchair, lake fishing from a pontoon boat should be easy and fun.

And of course there are many places where bank fishing facilities are provided for the disabled. The Conservation Department provides access and facilities, including floating docks and jetties at a number of lakes for disabled fishermen. A life jacket that can be securely attached to the angler is important.

The disabled person is likely to be more active and accepted today, and the enjoyment of outdoor activities is one of the greatest blessings left to us. And just being outdoors - not necessarily filling a stringer or game bag - is the greatest success and accomplishment of any hunting or fishing trip.

We can still enjoy the sight of early morning mist rising from some hidden hollow, sunrise over some placid lake shoreline or the flip-flop fly down sound of turkeys leaving the roost at dawn. These are God's richest blessing to the lover of the great outdoors; a successful hunting or fishing trip is just a bonus.

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