Photo by Layna Hendrich of PhotographyLayn

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Monday, November 30, 2015

Adaptive Hunting Equipment

With Christmas right around the corner, I wanted to give you some ideas for the hunter in your life that is living with a disability. At times, it may feel like the obstacles to getting outdoors pile up around you, but adaptive equipment like the following items can push through those barriers and open up adventures you never dreamed possible. These are a few of my favorite things- so let's go shopping!

I love seeing the look on people's faces when I tell them Wyoming Disabled Hunters has a hunt specifically for hunters that are either blind or have visual impairments.  I always get the same question- "You take blind people hunting?" We do! And thanks to amazing adaptive equipment like the Nite Site Viper, we have a very high harvest rate year after year.

What the Viper does is take the scope of a rifle or bow and enlarge it on a screen mounted above the scope. This allows the hunter's spotter to see what would be visualized through the scope and assist the hunter with his or her aim. Through communication decided upon prior to the hunt, the spotter can tell the hunter how to adjust their firearm and when to fire. It sounds complicated, but with the Nite Site Viper, the hunter has a much higher chance of harvesting an animal. And you can hook up your camera to the unit and record what is happening through the scope- how cool is that? Here is the Nite Site model we use:

I love my crossbow.  Although it's not strongly marketed towards hunters with disabilities, it really should be! I have trouble pulling back the string on a normal crossbow, and the Concorde allows me to be completely independent with the push of a button. This is the only automatic cocking crossbow on the market- pushing a button on the butt of the stock pulls back the string in about 2 seconds. Thanks to a quiet CO2 canister powered mechanism, this crossbow makes archery hunting fun and accessible for the hunter with a disability. Here is a picture from my mule deer hunt in 2012- successful harvest thanks to my Parker!

The only negative thing about my crossbow is that with a full CO2 canister, it is quite heavy. Which is why this next gift idea is so essential- the Bog Pod Tripod. This model is heavy duty but lightweight, and the best part is the spread and adjustability of the legs. You can shrink things down to use with a rifle or crossbow when you are prone on the ground, or stretch things out to fit over the top of a power wheelchair. It is difficult to find tripods that will give you the kind of specific setup you need to adapt in the field, and the Bog Pod does just that. Here it is on this year's antelope hunt:

I have several pieces of equipment to mention on this one, because Be Adaptive makes so many amazing adaptive hunting products! Let's start with their shooting mounts. These mechanisms allow a hunter to position their rifle, pistol, or bow if they have difficulty holding it. With the equipment mounted to their wheelchair or shooting seat, it opens up hunting to people who may have thought it wasn't possible. How great is that?

Be adaptive also makes several different products to help with pulling the trigger. Whether you need a suction or bite trigger, and an adapted finger control or wrist support, Be Adaptive has you covered! They also produce products for adapted fishing, so check them out!
I am ending this Christmas shopping list with my favorite hunting product- the Action Track Chair! This all terrain wheelchair works great with all of the above mentioned products, and it can do so much more! If you are looking for the ultimate adaptive equipment to enjoy the outdoors, this is it. This chair can get you safely into places you never dreamed possible, and it's so much fun to drive!

I use my Action Track Chair for much more than hunting- skeet shooting, fly fishing, hiking, camping, the possibilities are endless! Its standing feature is what truly sets it apart from other all terrain wheelchairs, and I know that it will change the way you explore the outdoors.

Like any specialty equipment, some of these items are quite expensive. If you are interested in grants and other ways to receive financial assistance for adapted hunting equipment, check out these pages:

Happy hunting- and shopping!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

How to Choose an Accessible Four-wheeler

When Russ and I were dating, one of our favorite things to do was go four-wheeling. It was something we could enjoy together outdoors, and I wasn't limited at all by my paralysis, whether I was driving or riding. We were able to see places I wouldn't have been able to get to in my manual wheelchair, and we always had a great time exploring the mountains together.

I was fortunate that Russ already had a four-wheeler when we met, and for the most part, it works well for me when I ride or drive. But if I was in the market for a new one, these are the things I would keep in mind...

  • Hand Controls
Look for an automatic transmission with all of the controls and buttons on the handlebars. Seems like a simple thing, but sometimes you think everything is on the handlebars, and you realize there is a foot brake that has to be engaged in order to shift into high gear or reverse. Sneaky little foot brakes. And then you have to lift your leg with your hand and push your shoe down on the brake and then shift. Not cool.
  • Covers
Look at any parts on the four-wheeler that produce heat or actually get hot themselves. When you are on a four-wheeler, the last thing you need to worry about is constantly checking your legs to make sure they aren't getting burned in any way. If the four-wheeler has exposed parts that aren't covered by heat resistant material, consider wearing shin pads turned to the inside of your leg, or have a strap that holds your legs away from any direct heat.

If you burn your legs on a hot spot of the four-wheeler, it kind of looks like a paper plate thrown in a camp fire. And the hair on your legs will no longer grow in the burnt area. Don't ask me how I know this. And please don't ask my Mom.
  • Back
Depending on your level of injury, you may want to invest in some kind of adjustable backrest. Whether you are driving or riding, these come in handy to not only store things (food, medical supplies, blankets, etc.), but also they provide support so you can relax and enjoy the ride without the fear of falling or getting unnecessarily sore. Make sure your four-wheeler has the space and ability to attach a back rest, and always carry extra bungees and extra padding if needed.
  • Adaptibility
Depending on your needs, there may not be a four-wheeler that comes from the factory that won't need major modifications in order to make it work for you. Plan your modifications and make sure the four-wheeler you purchase can be modified to meet your needs.

Case in point- I introduced you all to my buddy Jake Winlow in a past post. Jake lives with a C6/7 SCI, and he has one of the coolest four-wheeler set ups I've ever seen. I will post pictures below to show you what Jake and his parents have come up with to allow Jake to drive independently, which is always the goal if possible. Check it out!

Loop for the gear shift

Key keeper

Ignition/key extension

Movable/adjustable seat back

Harness on seat

Back of seat

In forward position for driving
In back position for riding

Throttle extension

As you can see- Jake and his parents did an amazing job modifying this four-wheeler. If you have any questions about specifics, please let me know and I can forward them on to Jake.

No matter the setback, get outdoors! Happy four-wheeler shopping!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Book Update

I have been getting a lot of questions about my book and the release date, so I wanted to take a few minutes and update everyone. I have learned so much about the writing and publishing process throughout this journey, so I will give you a timeline of what has been happening since January:

  • The first draft of the manuscript goes to the editor
  • Several months of back and forth between the writer and the editor until the manuscript is complete
  • The manuscript goes to a graphic designer for internal layout, in addition to the front and back covers and spine of the book
  • The completed project goes to a proof reader for one final edit
  • Final look from the editor
  • The book is sent to the printer and copies are available
 To say the process of having a copy of your book in your hands is quite an undertaking is definitely something I never fully understood before.  Now that I have experienced it, I will know better for the next book what kind of a time frame is reasonable.

All of that aside, the book is currently with my designer, so we are very close to print. I am crossing my fingers for a launch date before Thanksgiving, but we will see! I want the finished product to be the best it can be, so I am trying to be patient and not rush the process. As soon as I have a definite date that copies will be made available, I will let you all know.

Thank you all for your patience and support through this year. I am looking forward to sharing this labor of love with you all very soon!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Learning To Push Forward

This past Sunday, August 2nd, was the sixteen year anniversary of my ranching accident. There were times in those first few days, weeks, and months after my pitchfork moment where I refused to believe that God had a plan, especially through such a horrible experience.

This week has brought about some amazing and exciting developments in my professional life that are a direct result of that accident sixteen years ago. Looking back, I can see God's hands on every aspect of my journey, even when I thought He had abandoned me.

I recently had a VHS converted to DVD that was filmed in the days following my accident and rehabilitation in Billings, MT. I can't help but laugh as I watch it. I am skin and bones, slowly pushing an archaic tilt chair, barely able to lift the weight of my own, bandage wrapped legs, and still struggling to breath and cough without pain from my surgeries and respiratory problems. I can't believe how far I have come.

I see so many old friends who were instrumental in my recovery.  Knowing I wasn't alone through the whole process was such a blessing. The staff at St. Vincent was also amazing. They went above and beyond on a daily basis to make me and my family feel loved and cared for.

I feel other emotions as I watch the footage. Sadness over changed relationships, thankfulness for the love and support I was shown, grief for other families who are going through similar circumstances. I honestly don't know who needs to see this video clip, but I feel the need to share it. Maybe it will encourage someone else to never give up, to trust that there is a plan bigger than yourself, and to realize that there is an amazing life waiting for you if you can just find the courage to learn to adapt and push forward.

Here is the video:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

An Adapted Life

Sixteen years ago today, I thought my life was over. One moment changed everything, and I truly believed that I was doomed to a dismal, bleak future.

I am so thankful that I have never been so wrong.

Today, to remember the last sixteen years, and to look back and celebrate how far my journey has taken me, I thought I would stand up. And go fly fishing.

Thankful for so many things, but today I am very much in love with my family, Wyoming, and adaptive equipment- three things that make my life so richly blessed.

Enjoy a short video here:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Camping From a Wheelchair

One of the highlights of our summers here in Wyoming is camping. We love the outdoors and any chance we get to be up in the mountains. As a wheelchair user, I wondered at first how this would work, but we have made some minor modifications to our cargo trailer to make it accessible and comfortable for us, and it works great!

While there are accessible RVs and campers on the market, they usually come with a huge price tag. Or they aren't quite as accessible as advertised. What we like about our trailer/toy hauler is that it works for camping, but it can be quickly swapped out to haul items as well. The ramp is great for access, and we have box springs and mattresses in the back for sleeping. I have a portable/bedside commode for Addison and I to use, and we have a table set up for our kitchen area. It wouldn't work for everyone, but it is perfect for us.

We usually take our kayaks, fly fishing rods, and/or four wheelers when we go camping. I recorded a short clip of our trailer setup as well as a few minutes of four-wheeling. Enjoy!