Wheelchair Hunting Presents Many Challenges
We all love seeing a big, healthy deer being harvested. Most of us have mobility, so if deer movement is better in a different area, we simply go to a different stand or blind. Most of the time we are probably wrong, or we just get lucky and see more movement, maybe even lucky enough to harvest a big buck. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to only be able to hunt in one location? What if you were in a wheelchair? Well I know a lot about only hunting one location and the challenges my son faces with wheelchair hunting. My son Blake has Cerebral Palsy and is in a wheelchair. Our journey on getting him into the outdoors has been beyond rewarding.
In the beginning, I would hold the gun with him beside me in his manual wheelchair. When we would see a deer Blake wanted to harvest, I would look over his shoulder, get the deer in the scope, tell Blake I was ready, have Blake tap my leg and lastly – I would pull the trigger on his behalf. We harvested several deer this way. But this just did not fulfill the experience and empowerment I wanted Blake to have. At the end of the day, I was the one pulling the trigger – not him.
Outdoor Wheelchair and Enclosed Trailer Make a Deadly Combination
We started to research outdoor wheelchairs and found one to our liking. Our next step was to decide how we would get this wheelchair into position to harvest a deer. This wheelchair was too big for a pop-up blind, so we decided to convert an enclosed trailer into a hunting blind. The trailer has wheels, but it does not give us mobility during the season. We usually set the trailer up a month or two before the season starts so the deer get used to it. We do not move it once rifle season starts. In spite of these constraints, we were still fortunate to harvest several great deer.
The next challenge was how was Blake going to hold the rifle? I did a lot of research and found a company in Indiana that manufactured a shooting vise. It included a joy stick that moved the device up/down and left/right. The trigger is pulled by sucking on a tube. Wow this was awesome, we found something very cool here. Now it’s time to try it in the trailer!
Only Part of the Challenge Was Solved
It soon became apparent we solved only part of the challenge. Once the gun was in the device and Blake selected the deer he wanted to harvest, I would still have to look through the scope to line it up properly. The eye relief and set up with a traditional scope made it difficult for Blake to hold on the vitals because he is unable to hold his head still. I would manipulate the joy stick and move the gun into position to shoot. When I had the crosshairs on the deer, I would tap Blake on the leg and he would suck to pull the trigger. We harvested several deer this way as well.
We empowered Blake to pull the trigger, but he still did not have control over the entire process. I was still controlling the positioning of the scope. Not to mention Blake could not experience the impact of the shot because my head was in the field of view.
The Game Changer!
Then came the game changer, the iPhone spotting scope adapter. One of my work buddies knew Blake and the challenge we had. He had an optics company make an attachment that would give us enough eye relief to hook the iPhone spotting scope adapter to the scope. This was a second “WOW” moment for us. Now Blake could see the cross hairs on his iPhone and make the decision on when to pull the trigger. This gave Blake the experience I was looking for!
The first buck we harvested this way Blake had buck fever bad! His breathing was very heavy, his muscle tone was even tighter than normal, and he had a tough time keeping the rest steady. This is exactly the experience I wanted him to feel – no different than the rest of us. That first buck scored 145 inches and he shot it on the last day of Nebraska rifle season (by the way it was 60 degrees and the wind was blowing 30 mph). This is the only deer we saw that day, so I know there was help from above in sending us this deer. I can tell you that today I can still get emotional when I talk about this experience.
If There Is a Will, There Is a Way
This pretty much put Blake on the same playing field as able-bodied people, even though we are not mobile. When he went back to Lincoln Southwest High school, nobody in school had harvested a bigger buck than Blake that year. A lot of Blake’s buddies were jealous and couldn’t believe Blake could do “that”. Moral of the story here is if there is a will, there is a way.
It took us five years to put everything together, but the reward is worth every bit of effort. I would encourage anybody out there who may have “perceived limitations” to break through these challenges and don’t let them get in the way of your dreams. Our next adventure is going to be an elk hunt in Colorado this October. Can’t wait to see what happens and how much elk fever he will have.
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