October 31, 2011
Elliott: Triple-Play Plus Fishing
It’s been about one month since the Hunt of a Lifetime and Elliot is still excited.
“I was just talking to my buddy, William. He was excited to hear about it. He is spreading the word, too, about this,” Elliot says, sitting in the living room with his mother on this day when school is off for teacher meetings. “I will be 13 in January. I am a sixth grader and proud of it, too.”
Elliot also is proud to recite the names of the volunteers who helped him prepare and enjoy the hunt event. “It was a big deal for me and it was exciting.”
As part of the process to prepare for his first hunt, Elliot registered for a local hunter safety course. “I enjoyed every minute of it and every minute of every day leading up to the Hunt of a Lifetime.”
While Elliot is a skilled conversationalist with an optimistic view on life, he did admit his usual flowing commentary stopped when he arrived at the Rands’ impressive cabin that was his to call home for three days.
“I was speechless for 10 minutes,” Elliot says. His mother and DNR Conservation Warden Jeremy Peery, are quick to challenge the time without an Elliot commentary, and he relents but emphasizes how impressed he was to find the cabin “completely accessible” and so easy for him to maneuver.
He didn’t waste much time settling in and headed for target practice with the new sip and puff firearm. “I nailed it,” he says of the target.
He also nailed a 10-point buck hours later — with about two minutes left of the legal hunting day. A photo of the deer, and Elliot with his father and grandfather, is one of his prize possessions from the event.
The deer head is being mounted, Elliot says. But it won’t be going in the family’s living room to join the other deer mounts from his father. Why? “Because it’s bigger than his,” Elliot says with a big smile. “So it’s going in my bedroom.”
The harvested buck was just the first day and hours after his arrival.
Up by 6 a.m. the next day and after a quick call to his mom, Elliot and company were out the door on a bear hunt with Peery, Rands and a group of volunteer hunters with their hounds. That outing ended with Elliot harvesting a 150-pound bear which is on its way to becoming a bear rug.
Back to the cabin for food and it was back to the woods when Elliot got a doe.
“They called it a triple-play,” he says of his three successful hunts in about 24 hours. “The other kid, Ryan, did it, too.”
Two children are selected to participate in each Hunt of a Lifetime. Ryan, a boy from Cumberland, was Elliot’s hunting partner for this event.
The animals harvested by Elliot are off to processing and will return to Elliot’s home for a lot of dinners and lunches.
An evening banquet on the last night at the cabin was attended by the families, volunteers and even some youths who hunted in past events. “It was a good old time and I had a blast.”
How did Elliot celebrate? Fishing the next day before coming home.
Elliot and his mother, Amanda, have no hesitation in urging other kids to get in on the event.
“Most people will describe me as a nice person – and that I’m in a wheelchair. Not all CP people are in a wheelchair,” Elliot says, adding that didn’t stop him from going on a Hunt of a Lifetime.
He would enjoy more hunting, but “the equipment is expensive and we can’t afford it.”
Elliot stops and looks toward his mother and says he wasn’t insulting her. She smiles and says she understands. For Amanda, who grew up in a hunting family, she had no fears encouraging Elliot to participate in a hunting event. The emphasis was on safety and the boys always had skilled volunteers – like Warden Peery – by their sides.
For Amanda, it was Elliot’s chance to be with a lot of good people and make new friends that sold her.
“The hunt itself is great. But being able to meet other people, having Elliot meet people and make friends – and knowing there was another boy in a wheelchair who would be there – that’s what makes a big difference,” Amanda Ewer says. “Rusk County isn’t big. But it’s amazing how many people put so much into this – and to be able to meet those great people.
“This was a big deal – being able to make friends,” she says. “And, yes, we can’t afford the equipment to allow Elliot to have such an awesome experience.”
Elliot says he hopes other kids like him would go.
“If you get a chance, go on this hunt. They make is accessible for you. They make it as fun as possible. I didn’t feel any fear of anything,” Elliot says, adding he’d tell that to any other child in the same health situation as his. “I think it, the Hunt of a Lifetime, would help them feel more confident and, yes, raise their self-esteem. I am ready to take on just about anything.”
Besides all the fun, what did he learn specifically from the host – Bill Rands?
“He told me: ‘Keep your head up and keep smiling.’ And that’s what I do every day. I’ve been like that my whole life.”
– Joanne M. Haas, Bureau of Law Enforcement, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
For more information on this opportunity:
Joanne M. Haas
Bureau of Law Enforcement
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
RE: Hunt of a Lifetime
101 S. Webster
P.O. Box 7921
Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7921