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Owen Orthmann: Taking Bears and Bucks with a Puff of Air

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We hunt north of my home around September 1 for black bear. The area we hunt doesn’t have a great quantity of bears. Sometimes the bears become nocturnal, and we only get pictures of them on our trail cameras at night. We’re able to bait for bear where we hunt. I've bagged one bear and have had several close calls where I should’ve taken a bear. 

One of my most memorable trips was when I had a bear in range. I was sighted in right behind its shoulder. I blew into my straw to fire the bow but nothing happened. I had forgotten to plug the device that fires the crossbow into the battery that powers my wheelchair. That incident would be much like a compound bowhunter who got to his tree stand, nocked an arrow and had left his mechanical release back at camp, or, a gun hunter who squeezed the trigger on his rifle, and then remembered he had forgotten to load the rifle. When my bow didn’t fire, the only thing that happened was a long string of foul language. My caregiver Heidi was with me, and she too was very upset. She was probably more upset than me, because we had done all this work to get a bear to come in, to get me in position to take the bear, and to set up the crossbow, so I could shoot the bear. Then I had forgotten to plug in the device to fire the crossbow. 

When we take a bear, our friend who lets us hunt on his property will haul the bear out of the woods for us. We take the bear meat home and can it by using a pressure cooker. Pressure cooking the bear meat makes that meat as tender as the best roast beef you’ve ever had. We often make a sauce, cook the bear meat in the sauce and pour the sauce and the meat over noodles. This cooking process makes the bear meat delicious. I believe bear meat is really better tasting than venison. 

Although I hunt from a power wheelchair, and I don’t have use of my arms, we've found a way that I can go hunting like I always have. I think that is the real secret for people with disabilities to continue to hunt after an injury, an accident or an illness. If you really want to get into the outdoors, you can do it regardless of your disability. You just have to figure out a different way to do it than the way you once did. I've always loved to hunt, and I've never believed that I couldn’t. 

One of my greatest hunting memories was taking a 7-point buck that was filmed by Pat Reeve for the “Primetime Bucks” video series. We were hunting with our friends at Bluff Country Outfitters located in Alma, Wisconsin. They had invited us down to hunt several other times. Pat Reeve, another Mossy Oak Pro, had set-up the hunt with the folks at Bluff Country Outfitters. At that time, we didn’t have a pop-up blind. So, the outfitter built a natural blind on the edge of a field. A buck came out on the field and gave me a broadside shot. Pat was in the blind with me, and he filmed the entire hunt except for the last afternoon. On the last afternoon, Pat gave Heidi his camera, and she actually filmed me taking the buck. When I released the arrow, the buck was only 25 yards from my blind. Once the buck took the arrow, he ran up a steep ridge, stopped, fell and then started rolling down the hill. This was the biggest buck I'd ever taken. 

Day 2: Owen Orthmann’s Mentor – Outdoor Writer Otis “Toad” Smith 

Tomorrow: Mossy Oak Pro Heidi Kern: A Vegetarian Turned Hunter

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