Owen Orthmann: How I Hunt
Editor’s Note: Owen Orthmann lives in the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota. With the help of his long time caregiver Heidi Kern, he has been a member of the Mossy Oak Pro Staff ever since it restructured by Tim Anderson. Orthmann strictly bowhunts and takes deer, bear and antelope with his crossbow. Even though he is paralyzed from the tops of his shoulders down, he’s refused to give up the sport he loves so dearly. He is the classic example of the philosophy of, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Orthmann is much more than a Mossy Oak Pro and bowhunter. He's a shining example of the triumph of the human spirit.
I'm a high-level quadriplegic. When I was 19 years old, I had a diving accident in Somerset, Wisconsin, and I dislocated my third vertebra from my fourth vertebra. Before my accident, I was a bowhunter and very active in quite a few different sports. I just had finished my first year of college. After my accident, before I finished my computer-science degree, I was hired by 3M as a business analyst.
I've been a bowhunter for 37 years. I love to be in the woods with my crossbow attempting to take deer. I'm often asked, “How can you bowhunt when you're paralyzed from the tops of your shoulders down?” I have an adaptive TenPoint crossbow, and I use a Slick Trick broadhead. I have a brace mounted on my power wheelchair to hold the crossbow. I have a device that plugs into the battery of my power wheelchair. The battery runs an electric solenoid, and the solenoid pushes the trigger for me. I release the string with a pressure sensor switch. Because I can’t use my hands or arms at all, I blow into a straw, and that breath of air releases the string and shoots the arrow.
People also want to know, “How do you get into the woods?” I have an all-wheel drive van and a power wheelchair. I don’t drive, so somebody has to go with me when I go hunting. My wheelchair is an OmegaTrac power wheelchair. It obviously can’t go up and over everything, but it can traverse most terrain. Every year, I have trail cameras out all year long on the properties I hunt. Of course, I have someone help me put out the cameras and check them. My number-one helper is my caregiver Heidi. Another advantage that I have is that Heidi likes to hunt as much as I do. She likes to hunt with a blackpowder rifle. We have family and close friends who often go with us. We usually manage to get at least one deer each season. The biggest buck I've ever taken was a 7-pointer.
Heidi and I mainly hunt private land. In the Twin Cities area, we only have 40 acres, but our family and friends also have land that they allow us to hunt. One of the reasons we've been so successful at taking a deer every year is that we keep our trail cameras out all year long, and we check our cameras every week or two. Then we can identify the deer that are left after the hunting season; we can see where the bucks are; we can watch their antlers grow; and closer to hunting season, we’ll know where to put our pop-up blind to have the best chance of taking a deer. This year (2016), we've already seen three really-nice bucks. I doubt that we will be able to take any of those three bucks, because the lands we hunt are over-hunted with numbers of trespassers. The highway runs down the middle of our property with its alfalfa fields. So, people can see the deer from the highway. Often, the motorists see the deer much more than we do.
When we first started hunting, we built natural hunting blinds to use. But now, we have a Double Bull Matrix pop-up blind. I like this blind, because I can get into it with my power wheelchair, and the horizontal window is easily adjustable. Once I'm in that blind in my wheelchair, I can get my crossbow set up. I can move my crossbow to the left or to the right and up and down with my chin. I've learned how to aim, and I only shoot about 30 yards or less, although I have successfully made a shot at 35 yards.