Hunting After SCI: How I Did It

The hunt begins with challenges, but still worth the effort.

Hunting season for deer has been open in Georgia since mid-October and I finally got out hunting for the first time in mid-November. I’ve had a frustrating start to my hunting season this year. My main hunting vehicle, which is a 1992 Chevrolet G20 Van (bought on eBay 5 years ago) has a problem with the automatic opening side doors. Unfortunately, it is going to cost me $1600 to repair it. I only paid $2000 for the van making my decision on that repair difficult to justify. 

I also have my Ford F150 4x4 pick up that I have had since before my accident. I had it outfitted with a transfer lift seat and a wheelchair lift in the bed so I can still get to the woods. In mid-November, I had an invite hunt with my friend, Chris, who is kind enough to open his hunting land to folks with disabilities. He is gracious enough to allow us to hunt on his lease and assists us while we hunt a couple of times each year. I was invited on an afternoon hunt. It was a great opportunity to bring my Hunt Master Hydraulic Lift Stand so I could look over a large clear cut. This is a trailer mounted deer box blind, which can be raised with hydraulics twenty feet into the air. Dressed in cameo from head to toe, I hooked the trailer to the truck, loaded my gear, and transferred into the front seat anticipating a great day of deer hunting. 

Well, the first thing that occurred that might have been an indicator of things to come was that awful clicking and buzzing sound that you get when you turn the key and the battery is just not quite strong enough to crank the engine. On top of that, I realized that the way my truck was parked, I would not be able to get to the battery to connect my jump box to get it cranked. Thank God for good friends! I called my buddy, Steve, and he happened to be about 10 minutes away. With that first snag overcome, I was off for the 40+ mile drive to OWAL Hunt Club. I had a little more than quarter tank of gas. I decided I would wait until I was on the return trip to get gas so I could get on down the road and into the woods. Better late than never – right? I figured I could make up the time by going a little bit faster. 

Elevated accessible hunting made possible by a Hunt Master Hydraulic Lift Stand. 

My Hunt Master Hydraulic Lift Stand is a tow behind trailer that also functions as a 4-wheeler trailer. I had forgotten that without the 4-wheeler on the trailer, it is a bit rear heavy. If you know anything about pulling an improperly balanced trailer, you know that it does not tow well. All was normal up to 50 MPH but as soon as the speed hit 51 that trailer started wiggling back and forth – side to side. It was going to be a slow trip. Not too big of a deal. 

Further down the road, I met up with Chris and another disabled hunter, named Bobby, at the hunting lease. As we drove down the dirt road, my low fuel light came on and I started hearing that ominous metal on metal sound every time I stepped on the brake pedal. You’ve got to be kidding me! Maybe there is just some sand in the brake pads…Well, it was stopping okay so I decided to deal with that later! There was not anything I could do about it then anyway. 

Setting up the Hunt Master Stand is something that I can accomplish by myself but it takes a lot less time when I have help. It has four outriggers on the corners that must be extended out and down to stabilize and level the trailer before raising the stand. The slow trip had set us a bit behind schedule. We decided to just leave the trailer/stand hooked up to my truck and set it up on an old logging company loading area. I would be looking down into two beautiful bottoms and over to the next ridge and tree line, which was about 220 yards away. Therefore the presence of my truck was not a big deal. Additionally, having it hooked to the truck makes the stand more stable. 

My Hunt Master Stand has a metal box blind that is 50 inches square with a roof frame - over which I drape a fabric roof. After the outriggers are in place, the box blind will sit all the way down on the ground. The back wall is a gate that opens and has a small ramp. Rolling into the blind in my wheelchair is no problem. The hydraulic system can be operated from a lever mounted on the front of the trailer and from inside the blind. 

 

All my gear was organized. I hit the UP lever to gain some altitude. The stand is relatively quiet until it reaches about half way to the top and then it starts grunting a little bit. I stopped a couple of times and pushed the lever to the DOWN position to make sure everything was operating, as it should. With all testing complete, I proceeded to maximum altitude. When the blind gets to the top, the motor does not stop. I just stop moving upwards. This puts my eye level from the ground at 20 feet. I had a good view and was feeling good about my chances of seeing some deer. At this point, it was time to get quiet but I decided to give the hydraulic system one last test and I pushed the lever the only way it would make me move – which was down. Now the way this system works is via a hydraulic pump on the way up. To get down it just uses Newton’s famous law of GRAVITY. What goes up must come down! Right? Well, not on this day. Nothing! No movement towards terra firma! I tried the lever several more times. I wiggled back and forth in the box blind. I was up there and it looked like that is where I was going to be for a while. Oh, well. Might as well hunt. 

All set up and enjoying my day. 

It was a beautiful afternoon for hunting with a clear blue sky, temperature in the upper 60’s and a 3 – 4 mph breeze in my face. I was looking into the sun but that was not a problem and I eventually got to enjoy a beautiful sunset. As luck would have it, all I saw were some birds, a few bushy tailed squirrels, and some soaring buzzards. Maybe they were just being optimistic thinking I might be stuck there for a while and might become a tasty snack for them! You don’t score every time. That is why they call it hunting and not shooting! 

I don’t know what changed while I sat there. Maybe it was my attitude which had been strained by the dead battery, the wiggling trailer that required slow travel, the scraping metal to metal brakes, the low fuel quantity and, oh yeah, I forgot to mention my growling stomach! There is just something about a beautiful sunset that softens a man’s heart. 

Time to return home. After it got dark and I had unloaded my rifle and put it into its case, I decided to give the stand another try before Chris got back in his truck. I hit the down lever and sure enough, just like Newton’s apple, I started my descent. I figured things were looking up and it would be smooth sailing from there on. Packing up my gear was a breeze (with Chris’ help). The stand disassembly went easy-breezy and I transferred into the truck with no issues. It was time to head home. About four miles down the road, my oil temperature light came on and my water temperature gauge jumped immediately from normal to HOT. At this point I began feeling frustrated. I was successful in making it to the gas station. My buddy, Chris, pulled up shortly after me to assist. After topping off my gas, we pulled up to a water spigot and I popped the hood. I had a gallon of water in my back seat so Chris used that to put 4 gallons of water in my coolant reservoir and sure enough there was a steady drip, drip, drip, under my truck. At this point, we were about 35 miles from my house. We bought 3 more gallons of water and refilled my gallon jug so we had 4 gallons for the road and headed northwest! We hop scotched back to my house, stopping two more times for water. The engine never really overheated. I am not suggesting that this would be the proper way to handle a leaking coolant system but we were both fairly confident that the leak was small and no damage was being done to the engine. 

So I pulled down my driveway, with brakes scraping metal on metal, water dripping out from under the hood, no deer in the cooler. I parked next to my van that has doors that will not operate and my belly was still growling! Yet a day in the woods is better than a day stuck at home. I have to admit even with all challenges; it was an absolutely great afternoon hunting. And thank God for good friends!

Grandin

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