Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Chairbound Sportsman Experiences More than a Buffalo Hunt

Photo by Ed Helmick
Heather Terry and her family had the opportunity to experience the thrill of a buffalo hunt together.

Chairbound Sportsman events are always about more than the hunt or fishing trip for a physically handicapped civilian or retired military individual. 

They are always about pursuit of a passion or pleasure thought lost by an accident or medically debilitating physical condition. However, the March 6 “Big Bull Buffalo Hunt for Heather Terry” was about more than just demonstrating a handicapped person can successfully hunt a large game animal. It was a communion of family and friends coming together for a sharing of love and values.

When the hunting party arrived at Kelly Prestwich’s Big Mountain Hunting Ranch, they were followed by five cars and pickups. In addition to Heather Terry, the group included her mother and father, six brothers, a sister, her boyfriend, an uncle, a niece, and two nephews. This group of 15 people represented classic American values of family, freedom to pursue individual passions.

Heather is 24 years old and was born with spina bifida and unable to support herself with her legs. She was born into a family who enjoy the outdoors and the challenge of the hunt. Over the past five years she has been successful on a turkey hunt, a ram sheep hunt, and a buck deer hunt. She was excited to hunt a buffalo on private ranch property. It turned out to be an amazing family and friend’s event. 

Typical of hunts at the Big Mountain Hunting Ranch, Kelly started the day with a safety discussion and the location on the buffalo for an ethica shot. The target buffalo is a two-year-old male weighing about 1,800 pounds. Following the briefing there was target practice for Heather to assure her accuracy with a big rifle. She was shooting from her wheelchair as she would be on the hunting range. A back up shooter was identified as a safety protocol. A caravan of vehicles drove the dusty 4.2-mile road to the 50-acre hunting range. 

The hunting area has two types of terrain, hilly with juniper and pinion trees and a flatter area with sage brush. Kelly does not allow wheel or track vehicles on his hunting range except for events with the Chairbound Sportsman. Transportation for Heather was provided by Todd Lobato. Todd’s son on an ATV was the only other wheeled vehicle. The buffalo was spotted south of the staging area on the entrance road to hunting property. The buffalo turned east into the sage brush and paused 80 yards or so ahead of the hunting party. Aiming from the side-by-side was a challenge for Heather. The brothers sprang into action, it was like watching a NASCAR team. One of them removed the wheelchair and unfolded it. Another lifted Heather out of the side-by-side and gently placed her in the wheelchair. Another grabbed the rifle tripod and placed it in front of the wheelchair. 

The process of moving Heather, her wheelchair, rifle, and tripod were repeated several times during the next hour and a half in heavy sage brush. The buffalo was wandering among the trees and the challenge was to get a clear shot. It was a fascinating sight to witness the care, love, and commitment of the brothers to Heather’s hunt. The proud parents, sister, and uncle were a few feet behind. Finally, Heather’s rifle was lined up for a successful shot.

Our chairbound hunter got her buffalo. The 14 people involved got a group photo with the buffalo. Kelly and two of Heather’s brother prepared the buffalo to take to a Payson meat processing plant quickly by Kenneth Vaughn and his son Warren. The family already had a plan as to how the meat from the large animal would be divided up. Some meat was sliced off the buffalo and grilled at a fire pit back at the hunting range staging area for the end of a successful hunt feast.

This buffalo was raised like livestock and sold for the hunt rather than sent directly to the meat processing plant. Buffalo meat is commercially available in some stores and some people prefer the lean deeper flavor of buffalo meat over beef.

The Chairbound Sportsman Organization is a 501 (C)(3) nonprofit organization to help the physically handicapped participate in hunting and fishing activities. Their website is https://chairboundsportsman.org. The contact person is Kenneth Vaughn at 801-499-9770.  (Helmick is a Serve daily contributor.)

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