Photo by Layna Hendrich of PhotographyLayn

Friday, August 2, 2013

Why I Hunt

Today marks the 14th anniversary of my accident. What a ride it has been! I'll write more in a later blog post about my fall and subsequent paralysis, but thought I would answer some questions about one of my outdoor passions first, as it seems to have garnered the most interest over the last few weeks!

I also wanted to share a few preview shots from the photo shoot I did with Layna Hendrich on Tuesday night. Have I mentioned how amazing she is? This girl is creative, talented, and so much fun to work with. If you are looking for a photographer for any of your needs, look no further than Layna with PhotographyLayn. She can be reached at 307-899-0049 or She's awesome!

(Disclaimer: At the end of this post I will also have a few hunting pictures with animals I have harvested. If that bothers you, just read the text and avoid the pictures at the end. That is all...)

Hunting. The word brings so many different reactions- some positive and some negative. I had no idea that being a huntress (love that word) would so set me apart in the Ms. Wheelchair USA competition, but I have to admit, I received more questions about it than any other outdoor activity in which I participate. The main questions ranged from "How do you shoot those poor animals?" to "Can I come and hunt with you?" So I thought I would try and cover some of the main topics with information from my own personal experiences with hunting. I'm not attempting to change anyone's mind on the subject; I just wanted to share my feelings to clear up any confusion and offer my side of the topic.

First of all, let me explain how I became involved in hunting. I was born and raised in Indiana, where hunting is definitely available, but not quite on the same scale as it is in other areas of the US. I had a few friends who hunted, but it wasn't a way of life in my household. I had never shot a gun or skinned anything beyond science experiments in high school. I had tasted wild game a few times, but nothing worth mentioning. So when I fell in love with a boy from Wyoming, who had been hunting his entire life, my perspective on the sport changed dramatically.

When I moved to Wyoming in 2007 after marrying Russ, I quickly realized that hunting wasn't just a sport, it was a way of life- a vital opportunity for some people to feed their family. I had always pictured beer-drinking rednecks in camo and orange laying waste to herds of baby deer in an attempt to bring home "the big one" to grace their already crowded log cabin walls. And while I'm not saying that there aren't irresponsible hunters out there, for the most part, people in Wyoming take hunting safety and regulations very seriously.

When I was approached by a friend who is also in a wheelchair about starting a non-profit for disabled hunters, I thought it would be a good opportunity to put my computer skills to good use. I had no idea that I would soon be doing so much more than taking notes for meetings. We founded Wyoming Disabled Hunters in 2008, with our inaugural hunt in the fall of 2009. When I was approached about being a hunter, I was a little reluctant at first. Could I pull the trigger? Would I want to pull the trigger? At the encouragement of family and friends, I decided to try. And I'm so glad I did!

Because of the blood thinner that I take, anything with a hard recoil can cause serious bruising and pain, so rifles are not an option. I tried different bows, but found pulling the string back a challenge, so now I hunt with a Parker Concorde crossbow fitted with a CO2 canister that pulls back the string with the push of a button. I love adaptive equipment! (And, as a side note, we are in the process of rigging something new to allow me to shoot a rifle safely- but more on that later...)

I will add pictures at the end of this post, but before I do, I wanted to address some of the reasons why I choose to hunt:

#1: I love being outdoors in any capacity, and hunting allows you to experience nature as never before. Viewing animals in their natural habitat is a pretty exhilarating experience. Sometimes animals walk so close to the hunting blind that you could literally reach out and touch them. It's amazing! As an animal lover, this is definitely one of the perks of hunting. My husband always goes along as my companion hunter, and it's a wonderful experience to share together.

After reading that, you're probably asking yourself, "How can you say that and then shoot the animals?" That builds on to the next reason I enjoy hunting.

#2: The thrill of the hunt. There is something very primal and rewarding about being a successful hunter. From the months of preparation, to the placement of the blind, to the patient wait, to the actual shot, there is so much that goes into being successful in harvesting an animal. I prefer to give the animals a fighting chance, and I appreciate it more if I have to work for it. Outsmarting the animal is half the battle- you also have to be responsible enough to make a clean shot. Which means prep work throughout the year and lots of practice.

It's not all about killing an animal- that part should bother you more than a little. In my opinion, if the actual kill doesn't bother you, then you have no business hunting. I'm not out there because I love killing animals- I'm providing for my family. Which leads me to the best reason of all.

#3: The food! It doesn't get much more organic than hunting wild game. Harvesting a deer, elk, or other edible creature is the best way to get fresh, affordable meat. I am able to supervise the entire process by personally processing the meat and getting exactly the cuts I want. Filling my freezer this way is not only rewarding as a wife and mom, but it is great on my pocket-book. And I don't hunt things that I can't either eat myself or give to someone who will eat it. That's just my personal choice. I appreciate going after a trophy animal, but I need more than that- show me the meat!

This also allows you to enjoy a sense of community and sharing. There are lots of folks who harvest more meat than their family can eat, and they are then able to share it with others who weren't able to harvest, or could simply use the fresh meat to feed their family. Again, hunting isn't just a sport in Wyoming- it's a way of life.

I hope this helps some of you to better understand hunting and those who choose to hunt. Again, I certainly don't speak for all hunters; this is just my explanation of a personal choice I have made. You don't have to agree, but I hope you can respect my decision as I respect the decision of those who choose to either abstain from meat altogether, or obtain their meat another way.

If you have any questions about anything I have mentioned, or would like more information about Wyoming Disabled Hunters, PhotographyLayn, or adaptive hunting equipment, please email me at or contact me through my Facebook page.

Now, here are the promised pictures. (This is another warning for those who don't wish to see them...) The first is a mule deer buck from 2009, and the second is another mule deer buck from 2012. (Took some time off to have my daughter...) Did I mention I drew a bull elk tag for this fall?


  1. Ashlee, I'm so glad you posted this!

    1. Thanks, Amy! I hope it sheds a new light on hunting! :)

  2. Beautifully written Ashlee! If you approve, I'd like to copy your post in it's entirety and add to the "Marketing" section of my Hunting manual. There is nothing I like more than educating and raising the awareness of the non-hunting community to better understand the love we have for God's great outdoors and how hunting can be such an integral aspect of our lives! Sounds like you and Russ are a match made in heaven!!
    Regarding crossbows, up here in Connecticut I qualified as a disabled hunter five years ago due to multiple shoulder and hand surgeries. I have used several different brands of high end xbows with a lot of success and a few catastrophic failures of equipment! In early 2014 I joined Parker Bows as a member of their Field Staff. I became a "believer" in Parker literally overnight! From watching all the Parker videos on YouTube and on DVD you really gain an understanding that Parker has Done-It-Right! From a foundation of engineering integrity with safety at it's core, to out of the box repeatable accuracy, to rugged designs that are aesthetically pleasing and fully functional, I have yet to find any reason why not to choose Parker!! In fact, I am strongly considering the Concorde as a family xbow so I can get my wife Valerie back out hunting with me!!


    Tom Aldrich

  3. Tom,

    Thank you so much for your kind words! You can use the blog post in your hunting manual- no problem!

    I love my Parker bow and the freedom and independence it has given me. I can experience archery hunting like I never could have before my Concorde. And it's fun to shoot!

    Thanks again,