Abstract: A hunting trip for a father and his son with deafblindness is adapted so they can participate in this rite of passage with their friends. The steps taken to prepare for the trip and the hunt are described.
Daniel Shaffer turned 12 last summer, an age when most boys, at least where we live, start hunting with dad. Daniel’s dad Steve loves to hunt. He counts the days each year until the season starts. Last fall Steve was a little depressed when hunting season approached. Daniel was born with CHARGE Syndrome, is deafblind, and has autism. Although Steve had known all along that Daniel would probably not be a hunter, many of his friends had sons who were also turning 12 and getting their hunting permits and it really hit home when he realized his son wouldn’t be joining him out in the woods.
Christmas came with a huge surprise. Friends Chaz Finkenbinder and Shawn Frick presented Steve and Daniel with a very special gift, an adapted hunting trip for children with special needs. The hunt would be during the spring gobbler season. What a wonderful and thoughtful gift! We knew that Daniel really didn’t understand hunting or what it was about, but the fact that someone had seen the importance to Steve of being able to hunt with his son was wonderful.
Steve started taking Daniel to a friend’s house to practice holding a gun, loading it, and pulling the trigger. Steve sat on a chair and had Daniel sit in front of him. They put a camera tripod in front of Daniel to stabilize the barrel of the gun. Steve was able to look over Daniel’s shoulder to aim for the target. They also sat in a “blind” because turkeys are very visually perceptive to any type of movement. Daniel became familiar with the sound of the gun and the feel of the gun when he pulled the trigger.
April 21 was the big day. Steve was nervous the night before with thoughts like “How in the heck will a turkey ever come close enough to shoot with all the noise Daniel makes?” and “I don’t really think the guide understands some of Daniel’s disabilities,” and finally, “Well, I guess we’ll give it a shot.” We set the alarm clock for 3:30 a.m. (who came up with this idea?) and got up and headed to the farm to meet our hunting guide as well as a videographer who would tape the entire hunt. Our local fish and game club had already presented Daniel with a gun and he was dressed in camouflage just like dad. The guide gave Daniel a turkey call to use, a very easy push-button call that Daniel could operate by himself. Daniel was so excited about getting to “hang with the guys” that we didn’t even have to ask him to smile for the photographer! And though he did make noise when we were sitting in the blind, the guide knew just when to use the turkey call to cover the noise. After about an hour or so of watching and waiting (and freezing!), as if on cue, Daniel fell asleep for about 15 minutes, and while all was quiet, three turkeys walked right up to us!
Steve woke Daniel up and said “Okay buddy, time to pull the trigger.” With help aiming the gun, Daniel pulled the trigger and shot a jakey (little male turkey). It was unbelievable! The guide, the photographer, and the videographer went nuts! They were so excited they couldn’t find their way out of the blind! It was a terrific gift and definitely a memory of a lifetime. And a lesson for mom on why she doesn’t hunt (3:30 a.m. in the cold!), but this was one hunt I wouldn’t have missed for anything.