I was never raised in a hunting family, but from early on I can always remember going fishing on North Dakota opener. It would always be cold, and in true child fashion, I was constantly fidgeting around and not really fishing but spending time with the men is something I always remembered. So what would this story be without a good fish story. There we were at lake Ashtabula, I was six years old, I was given an old fishing pole just to keep me occupied, and if memory serves me correct earlier in the morning I managed to catch the boat motor. After untangling my line, the guys figured it was time for breakfast – coffee and donuts. As I was sitting in the back of the boat, tapping my rod against the side, all of a sudden the line went tight. The look on my dad and his buddy’s face said it all – I was in trouble! After the better part of an hour, sure enough we landed a very large northern pike! (Now here’s the fish story) Standing on shore at the age of six the northern came to just under my armpit and now I’m in my 30s the northern still comes to my armpit– ha ha. In reality, it was 12 pounds and 36 inches long and one of the only fish we caught all weekend other than bullheads(a relative of the catfish). After that weekend, I would always be drawn to fishing, however as I would get older I wish I had learned to hunt as well.

It is scary to think about, but I did not take the hunter safety course until long after taking the oath of service in the United States Army. I didn’t have very many opportunities to go hunting prior to my accident, but still dreamt of someday tagging a deer. As fate would have it, one day I was approached by an individual that belongs to a group catering to special needs hunters. We kept in contact through the winter and spring, and as summer slowly waned I could feel hunting season was right around the corner. We worked together several nights and weekends trying to design a crossbow that would be accessible. After many sleepless nights and countless redesigns we had a contraption.

Hunting season had finally arrived and there were approximately 15 hunters with various types of disabilities waiting to test their skills against mother nature and her bounty. Early Saturday morning we headed to our location filled with excitement and anticipation, however, we would be outsmarted and sent back to camp empty-handed. Later in the day on Saturday, the weather turned cold and rainy – I was looking less forward to going out Sunday morning.

After sitting in the rain and drizzle for nearly 3 hours, we heard the sounds of rustling near the river bottom, but did not see anything. Literally out of nowhere a doe walked straight out of the river bottom! Unfortunately she was walking straight at me and I was waiting for her to turn broadside, and just as she did she bolted quickly away! I couldn’t believe it – the only deer I saw all weekend, and I couldn’t get a shot off. Oh well, the weekend was not a complete waste, I was able to see many people with various disabilities overcome adversity.

I have been fortunate to have hunted a couple of times since that first weekend, but minimize my opportunities to focus on school. However, the thrill of conquering mother nature will always be there. I hope to someday get out to Montana and do some elk hunting.

Hunting and fishing is not always about the trophy you bring home, it is more about the memories and camaraderie.

Keep your hooks sharp in your crosshairs focused.