Wednesday, February 18, 2009

One hunter's ingenuity: Problem solved

I watch three kinds of TV - hunting shows, cooking shows and science shows - and one thing that has struck me in the past year is how hunters, more than anyone else I see in the onscreen world, are working so diligently to help disabled veterans.

Most recently, I've seen two episodes of a Jim Zumbo show where he helps this young vet, a double amputee, go on safari and hunt sika deer from a stand. To get the vet where he needs to go, they often have to carry him on their backs.

That's great for stand hunting, or hunting from the back of a truck, but what about something vigorous like upland hunting, where you've got to hustle through wheelchair-unfriendly grounds to get to a dog on point, and be ready to shoot now?

My friend Pete Ottesen answered that question for me this morning with his latest column in The Stockton Record.

The short synopsis is that a firefighter and hunter named Steve Peeples participated in a disabled shooting event sponsored by the NRA last fall, and there he met a young vet named Aaron McMikelk. McMikelk lost the use of his legs as the result of a viral infection he got while serving in the Marines.

"Ever since I assisted this young disabled veteran, I kept thinking how I could get a hunter with a walking disability into the field and move around so the hunt was in his face," Peeples said. "I wanted to make it real."

So Peeples bought a wheelchair, removed the wheels and other parts, and mounted it on the front of a quad. The result is what you see in the photo above - a disabled hunter who can participate in a pheasant hunt just as well as people walking on two good legs.

So how many pheasants did Peeples get the day Ottesen went out with them to do that story? Well, read Pete's story and find out. But I'll say this: The dude sounds like a WAY better shooter than I am. Yes, color me green, I am envious.

But I'm also really proud of the hunting community. No one can give back what our soldiers have lost in this war, whether it's arms, legs or merely the innocence of having never been in battle. But we can help them go forward using whatever they've come home with. And while lots of people are talking that talk, hunters are walking the walk.


© Holly A. Heyser 2009


SimplyOutdoors said...

Now that is some ingenuity right there.

I think it is so cool that so many hunters go out of their way to help disabled veterans get back into the field.

Bravo indeed!

The Hunter's Wife said...

Thanks for sharing this story. These are the stories I always enjoy hearing. It's so heartwarming.

Anonymous said...

What a great story and what a way to think outside the box. Very cool, and I'm so proud of the outdoor community and what they do to help those with physical challenges.

Jon Roth said...

What a great, innovative idea. I love that the hunting community is helping disabled hunters of all situations - but particularly those who were disabled defending our freedoms.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great story. We will have get one for the Pheasant Phun Lodge. Heroes helping Heroes, I am not sure how it gets any better.

Native said...

Another fine example of our thought process Holly!

coincidentally, we currently are having our architect (the same one who drew the plans for our lodge).
He is designing up a new set of plans for our wheelchair/handicapped friendly 10 room extension out at the Jolon Ranch.

I hope to have it completed by this next Doveapalooza! as Hank coined our annual dove shoot.

Native said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gary said...

Yeah, five in a row out to 50 yards from a stationary sitting position, I'd say the guy can shoot. That is so cool that there is heart among the outdoors folks. Hope its contagious, cause there are way too many people out there that are totally heartless. Great Story!

Anonymous said...

Hi Holly,

Have you happened to consider the fact this young man was highly trained in marksmanship? ;) I wouldn't be jealous if I were you. I happen to know that there is a Marine Corps recruiting office not far from your house. ;)

Holly Heyser said...

Oh, I know.

And I'm pretty sure the Marines wouldn't want an old lady like me...

Brandon Darnell said...

Cool story. It reminds me of a couple programs I've read about. One is M1 for Vets, which gives M1 Garand rifles to veterans who are nominated by their comrades, and the other is a group in Texas that donates time, guns and ammo to injured/disabled vets so they can shoot at a range.

We owe them a debt we can never repay, but that shouldn't stop us from doing all we can.