Sponsored by: The Physically Challenged Bowhunters of America,  & Barnett Crossbows. Hosted by Doug Bermel – Shooting Coordinator for Bowhunting.Net.

We probably all know someone who is disabled, or due to injury or age has given up bowhunting. They may still have a strong desire to hunt but the pressures of getting out are just too much to overcome. Maybe they are not aware of all the new products or the technology that is out there today to make hunting a bit easier. There are many items designed specifically to help the disabled bowhunter. The internet is a great source to locate products or just ask another disabled hunter what type of equipment they use.

There are also companies that will make any adaptive equipment that is needed. You just have to make the effort to go out and look. This is where the able bodied can step in and really help out. If you have a friend who is disabled you may have to put yourself out there. Maybe the disabled hunter is too proud to ask you for help, or maybe just plain stubborn to ask for help. The AB [able bodied] needs to go to the DA [disabled] and get them interested in hunting again and help them find the proper equipment. You might just ask if they would like to go hunting with you. That will take the pressure off them and just possibly rekindle the desire in them. But set up something fairly easy so you both can see what is needed and make adjustments.

Having a friend help you in the field is invaluable.

When someone becomes disabled their first reaction is they think their life is over and they can no longer enjoy the activities that they use to do. Certainly hunting is top on the list. Becoming disabled is a devastating and traumatic experience. It hits you body and soul and there is usually a long period of acceptance and adjustment. As the old saying goes “Time heals all wounds” but the process to get there is a difficult one where the DA has to learn the ways of how to cope with the struggles of every day life. Simple things we take for granted are sometimes impossible for the disabled. Many things will require extra time to accomplish but with effort and some of the new products and technology available today the disabled can lead productive lives and that includes hunting again. While hunting may be the last thing on their mind it and target shooting can be some of the best therapy there is.

The first question for the AB friend might be, ‘How do you get a disabled person back out hunting?’ The first thing the DA person needs to learn is how to accept help. They were used to being independent and accepting help is most times difficult for them. This is a hard learning process. In my case I learned to accept help by turning the tables. When someone helps me, even if it is something I can do myself I accept the help knowing that I have let them feel better for they have done a good deed. As an AB friend you just have to aware of how ‘help’ may be perceived. Stick to it. Your friend needs the help to get outside again and you may be the only key to getting them to do it.

For the disabled hunter having a friend share in the hunt is a rewarding experience for both.

As hard as it is to go out hunting, I have found that family members and good friends have helped make my outdoor experience possible and easier. Just having someone to assist me relives the stress and puts me at ease so I can enjoy the hunt. The many tasks involved in hunting like getting to the location, carrying the equipment and setting up a blind can be very difficult while in a wheelchair. But having an extra hand makes these chores much simpler.

To make this work the DA must be open and honest about their limitations and needs. That way there are no surprises if a situation should come up. What you are asking of your partner is to give up some of their time out to help get you to the location, bring the equipment and get you settled in. Also they may have to leave early to get you back out. There is the chance that you get lucky and harvest an animal that your friend will need to track, field dress and get back to camp.

As a disabled person I know there are times it just seems that it is too much to ask of a friend and you feel you are taking advantage of the free help. But if your partner truly understands and is committed to helping you out this can put you at ease. For when you are sitting over the fallen animal and realize it was team effort and you could not have done it without their help this is truly an overwhelming feeling. As your partner sits beside of you just as excited and proud as if I was his own you realize the true bond of friendship and you will always have a hunting partner to share in the joys of being outdoors.