By Rick Crawford
West Union, Ohio
The opening day for Ohio’s 2013 deer season had finally arrived. For four years Drew Burton and his stepfather, Todd Largent, had been making the trip from East Peoria, Ill., with the goal of Drew bagging a big Ohio buck. They entered the ground blind in the late afternoon of Sept. 28, 2013, with high expectations this would be the day it would all come together.
Not long after getting set up, deer started filtering into the field of newly planted alfalfa. The ground blind was set up in the edge of a brassica and oats food plot in a corner of the field. With two hours to go until dark a few bucks started coming into the food plot. The biggest buck of the group made its way to 20 yards from Drew’s position. He took careful aim and carefully took the shot. It was a good hit and the buck ran off the field. As Drew and Todd listened carefully they were sure they heard the buck crash in the woods nearby.
Now for the rest of the story: Drew is no ordinary hunter. Todd is no ordinary stepfather. Drew was born with an inherited disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. He has seen the inside of a hospital too many times, undergoing numerous surgeries. A steel rod in his back helps give his body some structure to help him sit straight in his motorized wheelchair. Drew relies on a ventilator to breathe and he requires 24-hour care from his family or his full-time nurse, who travels with him when he hunts.
Drew depends on others to make sure his hands stay in place on the controls of his wheelchair, that his head remains upright and that his ventilator tube stays in place. He requires the assistance of an electric winch to move him from his chair into bed, the only two places he has ever known. Drew’s weakened immune system means even minor illnesses can be life-threatening.
Even with all of these handicaps, last spring Drew graduated, with honors, from his high school, which he attended with the help of a full-time nurse and a full-time assistant. Now, at 18, he currently is attending classes at a local community college. With his weakened fingers he has become a skilled operator of his chair, his iPhone and the TV remote.
Stepfather Todd is an avid bowhunter and this interest in the outdoors has rubbed off on Drew. In an effort to help Drew experience the thrill of being able to hunt deer with archery equipment, even with his disabilities, Todd has designed and built a Horton crossbow for Drew that he can aim with a small joystick. The joystick is connected to two window winder motors from an automobile door, one controlling windage, the other elevation.
To fire the crossbow Drew presses a button, which causes an electric door lock mechanism from an automobile to pull the trigger. Power to operate the mechanism of the crossbow comes from a 12 volt battery. Drew lines up his shot by looking at the crosshairs of his scope through his iPhone, which is attached to the scope using an iScope. Once Drew is set up in the blind, the only help Todd gives him is to cock his crossbow.
Designing Drew’s specialized crossbow was not entirely new to Largent, as he is a specialist in assisting the handicapped, disabled and elderly through his business, ADA Total Access.
On this opening day of 2013, Drew’s wish for a big Ohio buck came true. His 8-point, 137-inch, 264-pound whitetail fell only 70 yards from his blind and he was able to take his trophy and a large cooler of venison for his family back to Illinois.
As his chair was being strapped down in the van for the long ride home, Drew remarked, “This is my greatest accomplishment.”
However, like most deer hunters, Drew looks forward to next year. He plans to return to Ohio on opening day with the goal of harvesting an even bigger buck.