October 13, 2007

Deer Hunting Now and Then

Some of you might not know about the magazine, Wheelin' Sportsmen. It's the official bi-monthly publication of the Wheelin' Sportsmen, National Wild Turkey Federation, an organization that "is dedicated to providing people with disabilities opportunities to participate in outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing and target shooting." It's a chapter of the NWTF that is sponsoring the disability deer hunt that my husband, Don, is going on a week from today. There are chapters sponsoring outdoor disability activities all over the country. If you're interested in find out what might be available in your area, you can find the WS, NWTF by clicking here. If you know a wheelchair bound person who used to enjoy the outdoors, a Wheelin' Sportsman magazine subscription would be an inspiring Christmas gift. Their glossy pages number around eighty and are filled with articles like 'Access Alaska, Discovery the Barrier-free Frontier' and 'Sightless Fishing for Reds.'

Well, enough about them. The excitement is building here in our house. The hunting stuff is coming out of the closet, the deer scent has been purchased, Don's license and standing vehicle permit are sitting on the table, and today we took a little trip up to the sportsman club that will become the deer camp base next weekend. Last year it took us two trips to find the place which is tucked away in a blending of farmland, woods and state property. This year I drove right up to it. I will be going out to the place on the 20th about dark to join the hunters, volunteers and other hunters' spouses for the deer camp's wild game dinner and I wanted to refresh my memory for the landmarks along the way.

It was beautiful, sunny day today and it was nice being out in the country where the cornstalks were so close to the road that we could hear them talking with the wind. The farmers were busy cutting them down in the fields every where we looked and we saw three or four large fields full of plump pumpkins. Coming home we found a little town that was filled with little ghosts, goblins, pirates and ballerinas all trick-or-treating the merchants on Main Street. Thankfully I was able to get through the narrow, congested street without running over one of the costumed kids.

Little trips like this can't help but bring back memories of past vacations we've taken in the pre-stroke days---of times with alternating deep conversations and contented silences as farmland passed by the truck windows on our way out West each fall to go hunting. I can't image traveling long distances now like we used to do in the past with the silence of aphasia taking center stage. Now, a word here and there pointing out something of interest is the most I can hope for. Good conversation, sleeping in tents or in sleeping bags thrown in the back of truck, bumming around on the mountain roads are all things of the past. Memories like that can bring a twinge of sadness. But good things are coming our way so I try to stay focused on them. Things like the upcoming deer hunter where a bunch of great volunteers will make sure that Don has the best and safest hunt humanly possible for a wheelchair bound guy. Hey, I just had a thought: if aquatic and physical therapy keeps going as well as it is, maybe hunting season, 2008, I won't have to say I have a "wheelchair bound" husband any more. By the way, the photo of is Don on one of our first trips together.

Jean Riva ©

NOTE: I posted about the disability hunt on a stroke support site and I got some negative feedback. If you are offended by the practice of legal hunting, please read the replies I made there and have reposted here in the comment section.


the aphasia decoder.... said...

The game in most states are carefully managed by the DNR through licensed hunting. If the deer herds (and other game animals) are not thinned out before winter most of them will die of starvation
before spring. Urban sprawl has taken away their natural habitats i.e. food sources and the land
left can only support so many animals. It may sound cruel to hunt---I sure don't want to do it---but letting the animals die a slow death by starvation is far worse. We can't even get people to care about feeding the poor in this country, we'd never get them to spend money feed deer and small game. The soup kitchens for the poor are very happy to get donated processed deer every year from the hunters in my area. That's a win-win situation.

I'm certainly not someone who advocates for guns or war. My husband and I actually hate the NRA, what they've become in the last few decades. But I do have great respect the work the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) does to manage our wild life population. They don't protect the wild life for hunters. Hunting helps protect the quality of life for the animals. Using chemicals to control wild life populations has its dark side, too, and I don't think many people would want to bring back the timber wolf packs who don't care if they bring down game or children.

I also appreciate the volunteerism that the Wheelin' Sportsman organization does to help life-long hunters who become disabled to get
outdoors again. When I remember last year's hunt I don't see the 7-8 deers that 18 wheelchair bound hunters brought back, I see the massive amount of volunteers who put tons of time into this project---the fund raising and planning, the getting land, blinds, vehicles, special disability equipments all lined up. The guides and trackers who stayed with the hunters. The cooking all weekend long to feed the hunters and
volunteers. A group of school kids even made lap robes. There wasn't a wheelchair bound guy who came back disappointed, deer or no deer. That
was my reason for posting/blogging about the disability hunt in the
first place....for stroke survivors who used to hunt and fish. To let
them know about the Wheelin' Sportsman. I'm sorry if I have offended anyone on the topic of the ethics of hunting but I hope I've inspired a few guys out there who might have been hunters before their strokes.


theBarefoot said...

Here is another good fact to put in your pocket. Average number of shark attacks per year in the U.S....2. Average number of deaths due to encounters with White Tail deer...400. The White Tail is the cause of more deaths per year than any other animal in North America. Better to get them before they come for the rest of us.

Anonymous said...


I wish you well in Don's deer hunt, BTW looking at Don's picture even I had twinge of sadness, gosh he was handsome hunk, yu must be very pretty too in your younger years.


the aphasia decoder.... said...

Thank you, Barefoot. I knew the number of deaths caused by deer was high but I wasn't sure were to find the statistics.

Asha, Thank you for the compliment. I am going to go through some old photos soon and will find one of me to post. I even handed the digital camera to Don recently, but he couldn't work it one-handed to get me.

the aphasia decoder.... said...

Well, I'm still getting bashed on the other site so, thanks to the Barefoot, I did a little research and posted the paragraphs below the line break in this comment.

What really puzzles me is that no one so far seems to understand how truly special going hunting is to a wheelchair person who has done it all his life. No one has picked up on the great effort a lot of volunteers.

The funny part is that Don rarely even brought an animal home, maybe five times in 35 years of hunting. Not that he wasn't a good shot, he is, even now using his non-dominate hand due to the stroke. But he always played by the rules of good sportsmanship and would not shoot if he didn't think he could bring the deer down with one clean shot. And on the days when I'd go out in the woods or mountains with him during hunting season he'd never even shoot because he knew I'm didn't want to see anything living die. I actually don't like hunting either but I am a rational person who knows that it is necessary in our modern times.

My last reply:

Here’s some statistics for you. According to the Deer Crash Coalition of Michigan, in 2006 there were 60,875 car-deer crashes in my state with many more estimated to have gone unreported. That is up from the previous year from 58,741. 1,477 people were injured and 12 people lost their lives. The average vehicle damage done to the vehicles who are involved in these car-deer crashes were $2,135.

There is a serious problem with the growing deer population in other states as well. According to State Farm Insurance, their policy holders were involved in 192,877 deer-related collisions in 2006 versus 182,458 in 2005---that's just THEIR policy holders. State Farm lists the 10 stated with the most deer-car crashes as: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, Virginia, Minnesota, Texas, Indiana and South Carolina.

These statistics would rise dramatically without hunting seasons to thin the herds. It's a shame that people who oppose hunting aren't activity working to come up with solutions to a serious problem like organizing to raise money to fund mass sterilization projects and to buy farmland specifically to grow crops to leave standing in the winters to feed the deer. Until they do, why not concede that legal hunting is a necessary evil?