Trapper Mine employees guide hunts for disabled
Craig Hunting has been a life-long passion for Jack Fischer. His house is full of mounts from his time hunting in seven states, along with an array of weapons.
He's also full of stories.
"I could fill a lot of books with my hunting and life stories," he said. "I'm living off of memories."
The 80-year-old World War II veteran added another mount as well as more memories to his life during the first rifle season. Fischer was a part of the Outdoor Buddies Program that was allowed to have four hunts at Trapper Mine this fall.
"I applied for the program last year, and I received my tag in June," he said. "I've been elated since June and looking forward to the trip since then."
Fischer has been confined to a wheel chair since 1980, when he had to have surgery on his neck and spine.
"It's been hard sometimes, but (the surgery) kept me from going paralyzed," he said.
His love for hunting had to take a back seat because of his immobility.
In 2000, he was able to go on an assisted hunt. Last year, he decided to apply through the Outdoor Buddies Program for another chance.
Outdoor Buddies was founded in 1984 for the purpose of helping to provide outdoor adventure experiences to mobility-disabled outdoor lovers. For more than a decade, Trapper Mine employees have volunteered to guide Outdoor Buddies hunts.
"I have a friend who is disabled, and I really wanted to be able to help others like him," said Vern Anderson, who has guided the Outdoor Buddies hunts at Trapper for 10 years. "A lot of these guys don't get a lot of opportunities like the one we can offer."
Fischer fits that mold.
"Living the way I do I'm stuck in places for three months on end," he said. "I just had surgery last year to clean out scar tissue and replace my hardware. I was stuck in one place for a long time."
Not only was the hunt full of memories for Fischer, the drive from Colorado Springs was memorable.
"I tell you what, that was sure why they call Colorado so beautiful," he said.
The opening of the first rifle season was the day Fischer and another Outdoor Buddies hunter, Ed Crooks from Grand Junction, had been waiting for since June.
Fischer said he remembered the morning well.
"We all sat around a big table and ate a big breakfast," he said. "Then we got in three trucks and went out for the hunt."
Because of his confinement, Fischer was able to apply for a permit to shoot from the vehicle.
"I really prefer going out with a bow and going against the animal one on one," he said. "But because of my circumstances, I was just happy to get out."
At around 10 a.m., the vehicle Fischer was in cut off a herd of elk.
"They were all running by us one by one, so I looked through my scope and waited," Fischer said. "When I saw the antlers coming, I waited until his nose was in my scope and I fired."
His shot brought down a five-point bull.
"He fell down right on the bank of the road," Fischer said. "They joked with me that I timed it perfectly."
The Trapper-guided hunts have a 100 percent success rate, but Fischer said he would have been happy to be the first to not harvest an animal.
"In my life right now, I've realized how much I depend on being around other people to keep me going," he said. "This trip was about hunting, but it was also about camaraderie."
The mine employees took two more Outdoor Buddies hunting the next weekend, and they scored a 6-by-5 bull and a 5-by-5 bull.
Anderson, who attends the annual Outdoor Buddies banquet to help support the program, said every year he looks forward to helping with the program.
"I'd almost rather hunt with a handi-buddy," he said. "I hope that if I ever become disabled someone will do the same."
For more information on the Outdoor Buddies program, go to www.outdoorbuddies.org.