The sky darkens over a field north of Columbia at the end of the opening day of rifle season. Dennis Thompson has just been told the shot he fired at an eight-point buck nearly 300 yards away drew blood.
“Oh man! That’s exciting! That was a hell of a long shot; if we smoked that deer that would be freakin’ amazing!” he says.
A hit at such a distance is an impressive feat to be sure, but even more so when you consider that Thompson did it with only one arm and one leg — and that he’s blind.
To be fair, he had some help from a digital scope system that relays the line of sight onto a portable DVD player and from the man watching the screen and guiding Thompson’s aim, Boone County Special Sportsmen’s Association co-founder Victor Acton.
“Feeling the excitement through the other hunters is the best part of this,” Acton says.
The BCSSA was founded in 1999 by Acton and Mike DeShazo to help men and women with various disabilities hunt in a safe and supervised environment. Each year, the organization takes a group of hunters out on opening day of rifle season as part of its Freedom Hunt. Each hunter is paired with at least one guide, and they spend the day in the hunting blind together, waiting for their shot.
“If we don’t take these people hunting, they just don’t get to go,” DeShazo says.
This is Thompson’s fourth year participating. “The biggest thing about being out here is just the people you get to meet," he says. "It seems like every year so far we’ve had different guys come out, and the guides turn into your friends.”
Acton says he talks to Thompson on the phone at least once a week.
“You develop friendships that last years and years,” DeShazo says.