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How Do Blind People Hunt? Article

This article will explore traditional and high-tech methods that the blind can use to hunt wild game. As an avid blind hunter, Steve Johnson, NFB-Wisconsin, will describe successful methods used in harvesting wild game.

If you are like millions of Americans whose families participate in hunting both as an outdoor activity, as well as a way to put food on the table, this article will explore some of the most common methods used to harvest wild game that are specifically used by persons who are blind.

I am one of those individuals who love to hunt, and after losing my eyesight 25 years ago, I never believed that I would be able to continue to enjoy the greatness of the outdoors that hunting brought me, and more so, the bonus of harvesting wild game that I have always enjoyed eating.

I am from a state where hunting has deep-rooted tradition, and for me, coming from a hunting family, not being able to actively participate in the sport after losing my sight, caused me to look at ways that a blind person can continue to successfully hunt. A blind peer, whose stories I had watched closely, was part of this inspiration for me to get back into the woods and continue to enjoy the solitude and feelign of closeness to nature that brings one back to their true roots. This gentleman who we will call Fred, was more of a traditionalist. He hunted with really good success by using a method still used by many yet today which we will refer to as “over the shoulder” sighting. We also don’t want to make any assumptions here, so let’s just start by saying that blind persons do not hunt alone, but can hunt independently. This method, called over-the-shoulder, uses a sighted guide. Whether one is using a large lens scope, red-dot, pin sight or any other traditional sighting devices, the objective is for the blind hunter to shoulder or hold the weapon, and allow the assistant to provide verbal directions or non-verbal cues to put the sight in the kill-zone so the trigger can be pulled or the string be released. This method has its upsides and downfalls. The greatest plus, is that it allows the blind hunter to still continue to participate in the sport of hunting with a pretty good chance of bagging game. Like our sightetd counterparts, one of the keys to success is the ability to hit the kill-zone, and with the use of a sighted assistant or guide, can and does potentially create a larger margin of error to occur. Now, this method that I am referring to, is generally used on large game like deer, bear, and even turkeys and other animals that tend to browse the forest floor and move methodically looking for food. This method is the preferred and most successful method when hunting faster moving game like upland game birds such as pheasants and grouse, or waterfowl like ducks and geese.

In the year 2000, I pursued my love of the outdoors to a higher degree and wanted to use my knowledge and passion to create greater access for everyone with disabilities to access the outdoors. I became a member on the Wisconsin Disability Advisory Council of which I am stil a member today. In 2001/2002, our DAC began researching the idea of introducing “laser sight” legislation that would allow legally blind hunters to have greater independence when hunting wild game. This idea, which is found only in a handful of states, was eventually drafted as legislation and introduced to the Wisconsin legislature as a bill. However, as we all know, the level of ignorance of what a blind person can and cannot do, is amazing…even with our elected officials. As one of two blind persons on our DAC, we worked hard to educate our legislators about what this device would allow us as blind hunters to do. Please keep in mind, that use of artificial light of any kind was illegal at the time, so this legislation would eventually need to be changed to allow an exception.

The following sums up what a laser sight does:
*provider for a greater safety margin to the hunters. Traditional methods like over-the-shoulder sighting, have the assistant immediately over the shoulder of the hunter, thus increasing the potential for greater injury to the assistant when large caliber weapons are used resulting in kick-back.
*Allow for highly accurate method of sighting game. The laser sight is a highly accurate device that when sighted in correctly, will give pin-point accuracy when placed on the target.
*Allow for quicker cleaner kills. When this laser point is placed on the target, and in the kill zone, the results will be a quicker cleaner kill with significantly less wounded and lost game.
*Allow for greater independence for the blind hunter. The use of a laser sighting device, has allowed for greater independence for the blind hunter in the State of Wisconsin and other States that allow the use of this device. Traditional over the shoulder sighting methods are not necessary, and in fact, a larger safety margin of distance can be used when using a laster sight as verbal and non verbal methods can be used to direct the hunter to the target.

In the fall of 2003, this laser sight legislation was passed into law in the State of Wisconsin allowing blind hunters to use this device to harvest game. As an avid hunter, I have used the laser sight to harvest game since that time when the bill became a law, and have successfully harvested whitetail deer, turkey, ducks and pheasants, and currently am waiting to earn enough preference points to pull a black bear tag in the next few years. My success however, is not just a coincidence, but a matter of being an experienced outdoorsman, and also having a quality hunting partner i.e. assistant which our laser sight law requires. This device has allowed more blind hunters in our State, to participate in the sport of hunting, but not by any means, taken the place of other more traditional methods of harvesting game. It provides for another option to the blind hunter who wants to continue to enjoy what the great outdoors has to offer, and yet still put food on the table.

What I have learned is that there are many types of laser sights, and one has to know what to look for when purchasing a laser sight if your state allows the use of them to harvest game. In daylight conditions, I have learned that the traditional red laser can be quickly diffused, and it is very difficult for the assistant to find on the target. In this case, we have found that using a highly visible green laser is sometimes much more preferrable. I currently use a military green laser that has a daytime visible distance of up to 400 yards, and a night-time visible distance of up to 3 miles! Red lasers are best when used in low-light conditions which we may be best when used in heavy canopy forests, where the sun has a harder time getting through the leaves, early morning and later evening hunting. While on the other end of the color spectrum, the green laser may have better results when the light conditions are brighter and the days are not dark and gloomy.

To find out if your state has a laser sight law, contact your Department of Natural Resources, or your local/regional wildlife law enforcement official (game warden) as they will have access to all laws pertaining to the outdoors.

For more information on this article, please feel free to contact, Steve Johnson @ blinddog3@charter.net.

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