by Tom Lealos
As a partially or totally blind person, have you ever wanted to hunt for and ultimately harvest an elk, deer, or antelope? I had, and until recently I didn’t think I’d be able to get it done. Let me explain.
After several successful deer hunts in northern Utah while going to college, I always wanted to go elk hunting some day, as elk and deer are both very plentiful in the intermountain west. While pursuing my career as a forest engineer in northern California, I started to lose my sight, and eventually became legally blind from uveitis. My dream of going elk hunting got put on the back burner until I retired and moved to northwest Wyoming. This corner of the state, known as the Big Horn Basin, features the majestic Rocky Mountains, large ranches, irrigated farmland, and is the home of Yellowstone National Park and Buffalo Bill Cody. In short, it’s God’s country.
Here, I befriended a local hunting outfitter. I cut firewood for him in hunting camps for many years. My dream of elk hunting was getting closer to becoming a reality, except that my vision was slowly deteriorating. My dream was so close but yet so far away. Over the years, though, I eventually became friends with the founder of the Wyoming Disabled Hunters. Now, with new technology and many very helpful volunteers, I will be able to fulfill my long-time dream this fall.
The technology I referred to above is a very specialized electronic viewing device called NiteSite. It consists of a small camera and monitor which attach to a rifle scope, allowing a “companion hunter” standing behind me to be my eyes while I’m holding and aiming the rifle. He will direct me with tap signals or possibly shooting ear muffs with radio capabilities which will allow us to whisper back and forth to each other until it’s time to pull the trigger. If we hit our target, he’ll also help me field dress the animal. I’m anxiously awaiting our hunting trip to the mountains.
From time to time I have heard of organizations across the country like the Wyoming Disabled Hunters, which assist people with disabilities with their hunting adventures. They guide you through the state permitting process, provide specialized equipment such as electric, all-terrain tracked wheelchairs, permanent and portable hunting blinds, and, of course, technologies like the NiteSite device. They also provide transportation, as needed, and make the necessary arrangements with the private land owners who make their land available for these types of specialized hunts.
The Wyoming Disabled Hunters are hosting 36 disabled hunters this season, and I’m sure there are many, many more similar hunts taking place with other like organizations around the country as I write this. If you have a desire to enjoy hunting in the great outdoors, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of these organizations.
Since I live in Wyoming, I have acquainted our Wyoming Council of the Blind affiliate with the Wyoming Disabled Hunters, and I look forward to a future of mutual support between the two organizations. I encourage other ACB affiliate groups to look into this sort of relationship for their members who may be hunting enthusiasts. As I’m just a little partial in this regard, I’ll take this opportunity to encourage you to go to www.wyomingdisabledhunters.org for detailed information on the best hunting the West has to offer. I’m sure that a search will reveal other similar available web sites.
I look forward to reporting in the future how good my big, juicy elk steak tastes.