Being a wheeling hunter had presented many challenges that I have been able to face and overcome through the years. I have been in a wheelchair since 1987 due to nerve problems in by back that doctors say is related to Multiple Sclerosis. I had been feeling a little down the past couple years and especially so during the hunting season. My hunting partner for 15 years had discovered the time he had for me was limited. Most disabled hunters have heard this from time to time. Some folks are unable to find the time that is needed for handicapped hunters and their special situations.
However, as the 2003 hunting season approached my family gave me a wonderful gift on a guided elk hunt. We found Dave and Dennis Nelson of Nelson Outfitters in Sheridan, Wyoming, who were willing to help the handicapped hunter. They are not yet fully set up for special hunters but were more than willing to try. Dave has a 6 wheeler which made my transportation much easier.
The weather had been warm for that time of the year and the elk had not come down from higher elevations. Dave knew I had been extremely excited to get back in the game so instead of waiting for the Elk to head down he called one evening to see if I wanted to go deer hunting the next morning instead. He did not have to ask twice, he knew I had not done hunting of any kind for 2 years and was eager to partake in an outdoor adventure.
When I arrived the next morning Dennis told me he had seen the elk start to move and told Dave the elk’s location, but due to their higher elevation we were going to keep it safe and go after a deer. The air was crisp and clean and the sun was starting to peak over the tree tops. I had a feeling it was going to be a very successful day. We had been driving around for nearly an hour and the six-wheeler proved to be a very successful means of transportation. Suddenly, Dave came across the site of 3 elk- 2 cows and a small bull, a 5x5 with a score of nearly 230, that we were able to get in our sights with the 6 wheeler. What had started out as a deer hunt had quickly changed momentum and I was able to go after the elk I had originally craved.
Looking through my scope at 450 yards, the figures were a little hazy. Dave suggested this was as close as we would get for now and asked if I felt I had a clear enough shot to aim for the first one. With the first shot the bull acted like nothing had happened to him and started to move. We were them able to drive a little closer and at 250 yards I fired the second shot. As I watched, I saw that my second shot was right on target and saw the bull go down. This was my first bull and being back in the thrill of the hunt made it an extremely exciting day!
Shortly after the shot, Dave and Dennis dressed the elk and started dragging the animal down the hill. This part was one of the hardest for me since it is the part of the hunt that I felt I should be doing. However, I was extremely happy to be out enjoying a hobby that I was unsure I would never be able to do again.
To my surprise a few nights later, Dave called me and told me about a deer hunt that was going to be filmed by a potential producer for The Sportsman Channel. The fact that I was going to be filmed was exciting, but I was more thrilled with the chance to go hunting again! I accepted and Dave said he would be out the next day to pick me up. After not being able to hunt for two years and suddenly being able to do it twice in one season was more that I could have dreamed.
Dennis was there bright and early the next morning, and we headed back into the woods. Once we arrived we met with Tony Haynes and Mike Devoe both with www.gohuntonline.com
who would be filming. I have found that it is sometimes hard to break the ice when meeting new people. To make things more comfortable one of them asked me about the camouflage I was wearing and I quickly replied that it was better than going naked. We all had a good laugh and the hunt was on.
As we were heading down the road after about a half hour of tracking, Dennis saw a spike and a doe. He said that he saw them before and said to keep and said to keep an eye out for a nice 3 pointer in the group. After a short while, Dennis was right on, and there was the 3 pointer. I situated myself in the six-wheeler we were about 125 yards from the spike on my first try. It was an awfully exhilarating experience. We finished filming and I talked about the shot.
We also talked about disabled hunting and the need for handicapped hunting shows. Tony agreed saying that many outfitters do not have the extra time and equipment necessary for the handicapped hunter. I was quick to respond by saying that handicapped hunters can do almost everything they set their mind to. Sometimes they may just need a helping hand or some special equipment to succeed.
One tip I can give handicapped hunters is to know limitations. You need to talk to your guide or hunting companion to decide what is needed to make the hunt a success. The preparations can include deciding on special transportation that is needed to get someone to the site or certain specialized shooting equipment for the actual shot. It is extremely helpful if this is all figured out ahead of time. If the area is somewhere new to you it can be very beneficial to explore the area before hand and make plans on certain areas that may suit you best.
From a viewers perspective I think what makes a good handicapped hunting show is humor. A good dose of laughter is very beneficial every now and then, which in turn helps to break the ice and works in building strong viewers. The show also needs to present different aspects of hunting using different methods, fair chase vs. game ranches including different types of game. As always showing specific equipment to fit the needs of a variety of different handicaps is essential as well as outfitters that are able and willing to accommodate the special hunter.
Paul with a nice Buck from another trip
Paul in his all-terrain chair
Paul with a nice Bull Moose
Paul with a nice Antelope
Paul's Mule Deer