Hunting? For the Visually Impaired?

Many years ago, before my home area became a suburb for a big city, it was country. Since I grew up there, that makes me a country girl. Or more accurately, I was a backwoods girl. An only child of a hunter, trapper, and fisherman, I learned the rudimentary skills involved in tracking and shooting. I helped build tree stands, put up trespass signs, and put out salt licks. I ran a beagle that could bring a rabbit back and practically have it jump over my feet. It was only my soft-hearted, animal-loving nature that kept me from hunting for real.

The hunting culture and community

I do not hunt but I was raised in that culture. I recognize the excitement when the season approaches. I understand the feelings of family and community that, yes, occur when folks stand around a deer carcass hung from a tree and bleeding out in the backyard. Those are my people. Therefore, I don’t flip out too much when I hear legally blind folks can continue to hunt. It is, after all, their culture. They want to participate.

Differing opinions on rights of the visually impaired

Of course, not everyone shares my thoughts on the matter. Our cousins the British appear to be a bit appalled. That is, they appear to be appalled if an article in The Sun expresses the majority opinion. In "Blind Leading the Blind," they comment that US laws are ”so crazy” that they allow the blind to own guns. The Sun lists states such as Iowa, Nebraska, South Carolina, New Jersey, Georgia, all sorts of places, as having laws that allow the visually impaired to bear arms and hunt.

The UK's Disabled Shooting Project

Of course, leave it to the Brits - who really are some of my favorite people - to be sort of, well, talking out of both sides of their mouths. You see, it is also in Britain that there are approximately “30 centers supporting shooting for people with visual impairment.” Says who? Says British Shooting’s Disabled Shooting Project, that’s who.

In these centers, the visually impaired use sighted spotters and specially designed sights that convert light into sound. These audio sighting systems are also used in the Paralympics by visually impaired shooters. The manufacturer, Ecoaims, can tell you about it if you are interested.

Hunting legally blind

But what about hunting, the way I started this page? Well, I know the legally blind relative of a friend hunts “tree rats” aka squirrels with a shotgun and a spotter, his wife. He is actually pretty successful.

If you want to go higher tech than taking your wife with you out in the field, certain states are allowing, or at least considering allowing, some technology that is illegal for the average joe. Cool Blind Tech reported West Virginia was, at the beginning of this year, considering legalizing some interesting equipment. They are talking certain types of laser sights. That is, uber magnification with bells and whistles.

Sighted spotters and technology

A way of combining the use of a sighted spotter and technology seems to be something called NiteSite. According to the American Council of the Blind’s article "Blind Hunting?!" this system consists of a small, video camera and a receiver. The “companion hunter” helps to sight the rifle using the camera mounted on the rifle sight and the receiver. A little to your right. No, your other right! The Wyoming Disabled Hunters Society is said to use this device and other such things to allow the disabled to bag and tag elk.

Tips for VIPs intereted in hunting

If you are interested in hunting as a visually impaired person, check with your local authorities and see what the rules are. Go with a companion if not a group (you can always “drive” and still have some of the excitement and camaraderie even if you don’t shoot.) Above all else, be realistic about your capabilities.

Me? I am a softie. I walk the dogs and yell at the deer I see to go hide! Just the same, anyone else get sentimental over the smell of gun cleaning solvent or is that just me?

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