Skip to main content

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


My caregiver Heidi goes with me when I bowhunt for deer, because she likes to hunt as much as I do. When she’s hunting with a muzzleloader, I leave my crossbow at home and go with her. Fortunately, we know quite a few quadriplegics that live here in the Twin Cities who hunt, although not very many of them have my level of injury. I think one of the reasons that more quadriplegics don’t bowhunt is because they don’t know how to make a crossbow adaptive so they can hunt. So on my webpage (, I've drawn instructions on how to make a crossbow adaptive for people who are paralyzed from the shoulders down. 

Another question I'm asked is, “How do you hunt when you get a heavy snow in Minnesota?” When we start getting snow, my bowhunting comes to a screeching halt. I guess I really should go to Mississippi and hunt when snow prevents me from hunting in Minnesota. Usually, I'm able to hunt from mid-September until mid-November in Minnesota, because that’s when the snow usually hits the area where I live. 

Orthmann_day2Heidi and I go bear hunting every year, and I’ve been antelope hunting twice. When I hunted antelope, we hunted over water holes, and I took a buck both times. 

My friend John Smith and I went to high school together. John’s dad was an outdoor writer named Otis “Toad” Smith. He was the only person I ever knew who caught a catfish with a piece of his own heart. Toad had surgery to remove part of his heart. Before he went into surgery, he asked the doctor, “What are you going to do with the part of my heart that you remove?” The doctor said, “We’ll dispose of it.” Toad frowned and said, “No, sir. That’s my heart. Put it in a jar, and don’t put any type of preservative with it.” When Toad went home from the hospital, he took the damaged part of his heart with him in a jar and then soaked it in commercially-prepared catfish scent. When he went fishing, he baited his hook with that piece of his heart and successfully caught a catfish. Needless to say, “Toad” Smith was an unusual fellow. 

I catfished and hunted with “Toad.” He set-up a hunt for us to go antelope hunting. The antelope I took on this hunt was the first animal I ever had taken with my crossbow, while sitting in my wheelchair. Two years later, we went back to the same place, and I took another antelope. 

“Toad” was quite creative. He designed and built a pop-up blind for me before pop-up blinds were ever introduced to the hunting market. He put a plywood floor in the bottom of the blind, so I could roll my wheelchair into it, and it had burlap walls and roof. It was big enough for two people, but “Toad” didn’t sit with me on the hunt. I had a guide. “Toad” was sitting on the top of a nearby hill with a spotting scope. Then he could spot the antelope and see me make the shot. However, “Toad” didn’t realize until after he had sat down that he had sat close to a fire ant mound. While he was trying to watch me and the antelope, he had fire ants crawling up his leg. I rode out to my blind that day in the back of a pickup truck, and I was able to roll down the ramp on the back of the truck and get into the blind with my wheelchair. 

To see Owen’s crossbow in the field, check out this video: 

Day 1: Owen Orthmann: How I Hunt

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

For the Love of Hunting with Mossy Oak Pros Owen Orthmann and Heidi Kern
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.

Latest Content