Editor’s Note: Lew Deal, retired Lieutenant Colonel of the U.S. Marine Corps, joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1975 and retired in 1999. In the Marines, Deal flew Cobra gunships and while on active duty, developed a passion for helping wounded veterans. Now he’s Mossy Oak’s representative and partner with the Paralyzed Veterans of America Outdoor Recreation Heritage Fund (PVA-ORHF). This week, he’ll tell us about the purpose and mission of the PVA-ORHF, and some of the hunts they have partnered with Mossy Oak to sponsor.
Paralyzed Veterans of America took a blind veteran on an elk hunt with a pistol scope mounted on a rifle. He understood plot codes. In other words, if we told him an elk was standing at 3 o’clock, he knew what direction we meant. I described the surroundings for this hunter by saying, “We’re on a ridge, and there’s an elk about 300 yards from us. We’ll move in and get closer for you to take the shot.” I painted a word picture in this hunter’s mind to help him see what I was seeing. I could say, “Move your gun from 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock,” and he would move his gun exactly where I told him. I looked through his scope and helped him line-up the shot, so he could squeeze the trigger. This man was hunting with a Savage .300 Win. Mag Rifle with an AccuTrigger. The elk was at 185 yards. When he fired, the elk went-down instantly. When we got this hunter to the elk, he began to feel the animal with his fingers, from the back of the elk all the way up to the head. He was looking with his fingers.
I had hunted with this gentleman before. I have very-bad hearing due to my experience in the Marine Corps with airplanes, helicopters and guns, but this hunting buddy of mine has extremely-good hearing. Maybe because he lost his sight, he depends more on his ability to hear. When we’re hunting, he’ll say, “Did you hear that?” I’ll reply, “Did you see that?” We both get a big laugh out of it. Between the two of us, we feel like we equal one person. This elk hunt took place at Vermejo Park Ranch (www.vermejoparkranch.com) in northeastern New Mexico and southern Colorado. The elk he took was a cow. He was so excited to take that big cow elk that he was beside himself. This fellow wasn’t just a serviceman who had lost his sight, he also has become a mentor for other blind veterans and is a published author. He’s a good mentor, because he believes there’s nothing he can’t do. When other soldiers say, “I’m blind, I can’t do that,” he says, “I’m blind, just like you are. I hunt, I go out in the wilderness, and I continue on with my life, and you can too.”