Children with Special Needs Learn The Joy of Hunting

News & Tips: Children with Special Needs Learn The Joy of Hunting...

Wild Turkey in GrassAs hunters, one of our most important responsibilities is to pass our love of hunting on to the next generation. 

That includes children who have special needs. For them, hunting can be a therapeutic, meaningful way to experience the outdoors, and an opportunity to develop a lifelong love for the way of life. What’s important is carving time out of our busy schedules to make that happen.

On the opening day of turkey season this year, several Bass Pro team members did exactly that, with great results. Special events coordinator Seth Greer, along with hunting team members Jeffrey Maple and Jake Greer, of our Nashville store, joined Tommy Apala of 2 Feathers Taxidermy in Watertown, Tenn., to help with a special needs turkey hunt. 

They assembled gift bags for the five children who attended, laid out decoys, provided some turkey calls and helped as guides.

“This was the most heartwarming experience I have ever had hunting,” Greer says. “I really feel like we as a company make a difference through experiences like these.” 

Greer guided 14-year-old Ethan Judd, paralyzed from the waist down. With the help of Greer and his father, Ethan waited for hours in a ground blind for just the right shot. Finally, he nailed his first bird. 

“He was ecstatic,” Greer says. “His father was quiet with emotion. Hugging, high fives and a couple of tears came moments later, followed by a phone call to his mom.”

Meanwhile, 9-year-old Lydia Willoughby was working with her dad to nab her own jake. But she didn’t kill one turkey; she killed three—in one shot. “She was overwhelmed with emotion,” Greer says. “It was crazy.” 

Indeed, it would have been crazy feat for any skilled hunter. But especially so for Lydia, who is blind. Her dad helped her aim by touching her on the left or right shoulder to move her gun to the left or right; and running his finger up or down her neck to adjust her aim. 

“We’ve hunted since the beginning of time,” Greer says. “I think even though you might be born with a disability, it’s a natural instinct. It’s in all of us, but some of us want it to come out a lot more than others. It goes to show that, being with children who’ve never really been able to hunt, who’ve never really been in the woods, the excitement that they get—it’s more instinct than it is a want or new hobby.”

Question: What can you do to help pass on your joy of hunting to the next generation, especially those with special needs?