Disabled Hunters Shoot Down Obstacles, Find Peace in Sport


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Drizzt
July 5, 2005, 10:41 AM
Disabled Hunters Shoot Down Obstacles, Find Peace in Sport

By Kristen Gelineau Associated Press Writer
Published: Jul 5, 2005

PROVIDENCE FORGE, Va. (AP) - The forest is dark and the birds are still sleeping as Kody Eldridge's wheelchair rattles along a winding path.
Kody's father struggles to keep the chair rolling down the rocky trail as a camouflage-clad hunter leads the way.

The group emerges into a clearing. Just ahead sits a hunting blind - an igloo-shaped tent with round cutouts for 13-year-old Kody to look through as he searches for the day's prey - wild turkey.

Following the whispered instructions of hunter Mike Deane and his wife, Marisa, Kevin Eldridge rolls his son backward into the blind. Deane, the designated turkey caller, slips away into the woods.

The others zip themselves into the tent. Kody lifts a shotgun, pokes the barrel through a window and settles back into his wheelchair to sit and wait.

Sitting and waiting are no big deal, Kody says. They're his specialty.

---

Sprinkled across this forest east of Richmond on this recent morning are others like Kody - members of a national group of disabled nature lovers called the Wheelin' Sportsmen.

Since the group was founded in Alabama in 1996, chapters have sprung up in every state. With its partner, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the group's hunting and fishing trips have attracted everyone from a 7-year-old blind girl who shot her first deer, to a 96-year-old stroke victim who caught her first fish.

Though hunting is a sport associated with death, the Wheelin' Sportsmen say for them, hunting is an affirmation that life doesn't stop just because they have a handicap.

"It's not about killing and catching," says the group's founder Kirk Thomas, who was paralyzed from the waist down after a tree fell on his back during a hunting trip in 1992. "It's about getting disabled people back in the outdoors."

Once they get over their hesitation, some Wheelin' members say, they are surprised to discover that hunting is therapeutic, providing feelings of serenity and peace.

For Kody, paralyzed from the mid-thigh down since birth due to spina bifida, sulking over his condition just won't do. From his wheelchair, he's played tennis and paintball, taken archery lessons and is hoping to go skydiving.

Why push himself so much? Kody shrugs. He's just a regular kid who likes to have fun.

---

In the hunting blind, Kody's father glances at his watch. The sun has risen, and an hour of sitting in silence, hoping a turkey will wander by, has passed. This is fun?

"It's exciting," Kody insists.

Hour three approaches. Mike Deane emerges from the woods and pokes his head into the tent.

"Pretty boring, eh Kody?" he whispers.

Kody shrugs.

"This kinda thing's right up Kody's alley," his father says. Kody grins. "Sitting and waiting," he agrees with a nod.

Five hours into the hunt, a trip to nature's restroom becomes pressing for Kevin Eldridge. He wiggles out of the blind. The minutes tick by.

Suddenly, something close to the side of the tent makes a raspy sound.

Kody leans forward, searching for the source of the noise.

Stretched out in a patch of sunshine next to the tent is his dad, asleep and snoring.

Kody rocks back and forth, overcome by a fit of laughter.

---

It's 4:30 p.m., and nearly twelve hours have passed since the group arrived at the clearing. They're getting ready to pack up when...

"I think I see a turkey!" Mike Deane whispers excitedly.

In the distance, two birds are lurching toward the blind. Kody grips his gun.

The turkeys amble closer, and then disappear into a patch of tall weeds. Kody's heart pounds. Has he lost them?

Fifteen minutes pass. Weary from the weight of the gun, Kody's arms begin to sag. Marisa Deane urges him to stay ready.

One of the birds emerges from the weeds, heading toward the woods. In a few seconds, it will be gone for good.

"He's too far away - shoot the second one," Marisa Deane whispers.

A moment later, the second bird appears and heads for the trees.

"Take him!" Deane whispers urgently.

The gun trembles in Kody's hands. He hesitates. The turkey is about to slip into the forest.

"GO!" Deane hisses.

BANG!

The recoil snaps Kody back in his wheelchair. The shot strikes the ground and the bird soars, unharmed, into the trees.

Kody pulls off his hat and lets out a deep breath.

"Whew!"

---

A weary Kevin Eldridge slowly pulls his son back up the rocky path through the trees to their car. Dinner tonight will be leftover chicken - not a Thanksgiving-style feast.

As the clearing slowly disappears from view, Kody glances once more toward the trees where the turkey made its flight to freedom.

And he smiles.

---

On the Net:

Wheelin' Sportsmen: http://www.wheelinsportsmen.org/

http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGB255LQRAE.html

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mete
July 5, 2005, 11:21 AM
Blind 7 year olds hunting deer ?? GIVE ME A BREAK !!! I'm all for helping out the disabled but let's keep it within reason .I wonder who talked the kid into that .The disabled must accept the fact that their lives will not be the same.

JohnBT
July 5, 2005, 11:30 AM
You need to accept that they can do things even if you think they can't. It's all about figuring out how. I haven't seen it all, but I've seen and learned a lot since I got an M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling in 1974 and went to work assisting folks in figuring out how to get back to work.

John

Standing Wolf
July 5, 2005, 06:26 PM
The disabled must accept the fact that their lives will not be the same.

The non-disabled must accept the fact that some of the disabled just plain old-fashioned refuse to act like it.

Trisha
July 5, 2005, 06:55 PM
:D

{{{{{hugs!}}}}}

Trisha

scout26
July 5, 2005, 08:10 PM
My club is having it's annual disabled shoot, (You know, it just sounds wrong) this Saturday, July 9th.

Truly motivating.

Khaotic
July 5, 2005, 11:13 PM
Well, one can accept it, or one can overcome it.

Between human ingenuity and technology, there's almost always a way.
And if there ain't ? - ask me to build you one!
(Built my own custom motorbike instead of ceasing to ride.)

That bein said, safe practices are doubly a must in said cases.

-K

LHB1
July 5, 2005, 11:27 PM
One of the greatest hunting memories I have is the time I was privileged to help a friend's handicapped son get his deer. My friend had a 21 year old son who could not bend his elbows, his hands twisted outward, and he couldn't bend his knees to step up onto a curb. He couldn't sit down in a chair or get up by himself, couldn't feed himself, or take care of personal hygiene tasks but he wanted to go deer hunting.

My friend rigged a Ruger semiauto .44 mag carbine with a red dot aiming device and taped the whole thing loosely to the top of a piece of PVC set upright on a base. Somehow, this young man was able to use his stiff arms and twisted hands to maneuver the red dot onto a 6 point buck and pull the trigger. I still don't know how he managed this. Because his hands twisted outward, he had to cross his arms and use his left hand on the right side of gun and his right hand on left side of gun. Looked impossible to me!

At any rate, he did manage to hit the buck just before dark. Three of us converged on him and began to track the buck. We trapped it against a small river and the deer jumped in. By this time it was dark and the only gun was my S&W .44 mag pistol. I managed to shoot off one horn before finally killing the deer. We were able to retrieve the deer for that young man. The look of pleasure and satisfaction on his face was unforgettable. My friend had the one horned head mounted for his son.

Good shooting and be safe.
LB

Nathanael_Greene
July 6, 2005, 07:57 AM
While I was digging around for some information about Remington's Managed Recoil ammunition, I found this site:

http://users.ev1.net/~chada/trophy30.html

"Anyway I had to keep a lookout and around 8:25, here he came, trotting out of the woods. He went right past the feeder and that got my heart pounding. Gary, being a hunter and all, grunted at him and he stopped! Well I don't have to tell you how fast I laid the cross-hairs on his shoulder. When I did I sipped on the Be-Adaptive Trigger and he jumped on the shot. It was about a 40 yard shot. He went off into the woods and disappeared."

I found this inspiring. A few years ago, I had an injury that confined me to a wheelchair for a few months, and I was unable to do a lot. Here's a guy in a lot worse condition than I ever was, and he bagged a buck. Plus, he's able to use his hunting rig for fishing, too.

More power to ya!

JoeHatley
July 6, 2005, 09:47 AM
The disabled must accept the fact that their lives will not be the same.

Why?!? I choose to improvise, overcome, and adapt. There is always a way to acomplish anything, and who is to say which way is correct or more "normal".

Joe (T-4 para)

Beren
July 11, 2005, 05:10 PM
The disabled must accept the fact that their lives will not be the same.

The non-disabled must accept the fact that some disabled persons will attempt to do as they damn well please, so long as safety precautions are in place to mitigate the potential for harm to others.

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