Fate took their sight, or limbs, or left them with other health issues, but their love of hunting remained strong. Now, one volunteer group makes sure that love doesn’t go unrequited.
All photos by Sara Stathas
Some are blind. Some can’t walk.
Some have heart conditions. Yet they gather in the predawn darkness and ride through farmland and forest on all-terrain vehicles to hunting blinds. Guided by able-bodied mentors, they’re determined to enjoy the mix of serenity and thrills that hunting can deliver.
The nonprofit North American Squirrel Association, host of the October 2014 hunt that’s pictured, gets help from the state Department of Natural Resources to ensure everyone stays safe.
But safety’s not the only goal. Hunters want success, too.
They found it. More than 20 hunters, each guided by an individual mentor, took to some 600 acres of farmland owned by Zachary Klaus and his sisters near Galesville, Wis. In two days, they bagged 13 deer. Volunteers clean the quarry and cook lunch.
For the hunters, it’s a chance some assumed they’d never get. NASA has sponsored outdoors excursions for the disabled for more than a decade. It refuses to let blindness or other physical limitations keep hunters from a spot in the woods.
Back in October 2014, Don Krajewski (left) was on his first hunt since losing his left leg about a decade prior. He didn’t want to leave his perch, even for lunch. Joined by mentor Jim Bullock (right), one of the North American Squirrel Association volunteers who helped facilitate the outing for 20-plus disabled hunters, Krajewski bagged the first deer of the weekend.
George Wilson had hunted a few times before he went blind at age 19 due to untreated juvenile glaucoma, which destroyed both of his optic nerves. “I thought I was never going to be able to do it again,” he says. “I really did enjoy it.” Now 58 years old, the La Crosse man rekindled his childhood love of hunting. He’s joined guided hunts set up by a nonprofit, the North American Squirrel Association, which is dedicated to opening outdoors sports to the elderly and disabled. Here, he stands in the woods with his Remington 700 bolt-action rifle during the NASA hunt near Galesville, Wis., in October 2014.