While at a Safari Club banquet I ended up with the winning bid for a semi guided deer hunt in Missouri. I met Paul Korn with Tombstone Creek Outfitters and we discussed some of the special needs for me to have a safe and enjoyable hunt. This was all new to Paul as I was to be his first disabled hunter.
The hunt was set for October 2nd and in the weeks before Paul and I talked several times about all the arrangements. With all the plans made, I waited for the day to leave for what appeared to be a most interesting trip.
October 2nd came and I left at 4:00 in the morning and drove an hour to pick up my good friend Steve. Then we left for the 61/2 hour drive to Gillman City. About 20 miles into Missouri we stopped at a Wal-Mart in Bethany to buy our hunting licenses then drove another 20 miles to the Tombstone Creek Ranch. Once there we met head guide Seth Huddala and he took us out to the area we would be hunting and went over some camp rules. I would not be staying in camp as it was not wheelchair accessible but Paul had a cabin for me about seven miles away.
Once we got to the cabin I got a chance to look things over to see if it would work for me. There were two stairs going in but they had put down a piece of plywood for a ramp but the ramp was at a steep angle which could make me tip over backwards. But this was not a major problem as Steve was there to help. Inside all the doors to the bedrooms were too narrow but the couch folded down and I could sleep there. It was a tight squeeze to get in the bathroom but with a lot of pushing I could make it. It looked like we could make things work.
As we were sitting around the table I started thinking about what I did with my license. A quick check in my pockets and in the truck and nothing. I remembered putting the license under my leg and when I got into the truck it must have fallen to the ground.
We went back to Wal-Mart figuring I would have to get a duplicate or maybe someone had turned it in. As we pulled into the parking lot I asked Steve to go over to the place we had parked and check there and sure enough there it was, laying in the same spot where I dropped it! Steve picked it up and it was back to the cabin. I thought that maybe this was some kind of a good sign.
That afternoon we went out and Steve drove me to the bale blind I would be hunting from. The doors on the blind were too narrow to get my chair through so I would roll to the door then fall out of the chair and Steve would wrestle the chair into the blind and I would get back in and get set up.
That night I saw several does and a turkey but all were too far for a shot. The next morning I tried the same blind but did not see anything. We met up with Seth and came up with a new plan for the afternoon hunt. Seth went out and put up a ground blind on a food plot just down the hill from where I was before. This was much easier to get into. They just raised the blind and I rolled in.
About a ½ an hour before dark a doe entered the food plot. When she saw the blind she knew something was different and got real spooky. She turned and walked away but then came back all the while staring at the blind. I finally had a chance to pick up my bow but was uncertain of the range. I guessed it at 35 yards and took the shot but it must have been farther then that as it was a clean miss.
The next day I was in a different bale blind and saw four does and two bucks but all were too far for a shot. It was very dry with no rain for months and the corn and food plots were in terrible shape so the conditions made for a tough hunt. We did not get a deer or turkey on this trip but still had a great time. If we go back next year we will be a little wiser and know what to expect and what we can change.
The main point I want to make is that the outfitter had never worked with a disabled hunter before and they obviously were unsure of the challenges a disabled hunter has. This was not out of indifference but rather inexperience when working with the disabled. Paul and Seth did what they thought was necessary and went out of their way for me but sometimes things are just not the way you need them. As a disabled hunter we must all realize that conditions are not always going to be perfect. We need to toughen up and learn how to adapt.
There is always a way to make things work you just need to be somewhat creative. It would have been easy to just throw my hands in the air and complain that this was not going to work but with some careful thinking and an eagerness on the part of the outfitter, what could have been a bad situation turned out to be a good hunt. We must all, disabled or not, be ready to adapt and assume the conditions in most any hunt will be less than ideal and prepare to improvise and make things work.
To more articles by Doug Bermel.