A blind teenage hunter bags a black bear thanks to the Moses Lake-based nonprofit Youth Outdoors Limited, which plans hunting and fishing trips for kids with disabilities.
On her first bear hunt last month, West Valley High School freshman Maegan Weiler waited 13 straight hours for the chance to take her shot.
Weiler, 14, who is blind, was able to hunt on her own thanks to specialized equipment on a trip organized by Youth Outdoors Unlimited, a Moses Lake-based nonprofit that plans hunting and fishing trips for kids with disabilities and life-threatening illnesses.
Youth Outdoors Unlimited
Learn more about the nonprofit online at www.youthoutdoorsu.org/
With her rifle set on a tripod and a video camera run through the scope so that a guide could see what Weiler could not, she successfully hit a 300-pound male black bear about 85 yards away on her first shot.
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“It was kind of like a video game and they told me right or left, but I got to aim and everything,” Maegan Weiler said. “It was awesome.”
Her dad, Matt Weiler, went on the three-day hunt on the Quinault Indian Reservation with her and thanked Youth Outdoors Unlimited, YOU, for providing the experience for Maegan.
“We’ve always hunted as a family, but how we’ve done it in the past for deer hunting is her grandfather or I held the rifle and she pulled the trigger, but this she did it holding it herself,” Matt Weiler said. “It really helped her boost her confidence and show her she can do stuff by herself.”
That’s exactly what the group’s founder, Cindy Carpenter, had in mind when she and her husband started planning trips for kids with special needs in 2011.
“We try to specialize in adapting situations to accommodate kids with different medical conditions and mostly what we’ve seen with kids with disabilities is that they are able to continue to hunt with what they learn from us,” she said.
Modifications can range from specialized gun supports to wheelchair ramps on hunting blinds, she said. “We make sure they get all the skills they need and of course they have to pass hunter safety like everyone else,” she said.
YOU also provides gear and services typically donated by local businesses. For example, Bushnell’s taxidermy in Ellensburg is turning Weiler’s bear into a rug and Cabela’s donated her clothing.
Last year, YOU planned 14 trips and will probably do a similar number this year, Carpenter said.
The group is completely donation funded, Carpenter said, and many of the volunteers are families whose kids have participate in the program as well.
“Families who have received a trip tend to stay involved. Who better to have the enthusiasm for helping other kids?” Carpenter said. She added that they are always looking for new supporters, included landowners willing to let YOU organize a hunt on their property.
“We just want to give them the highest percentage chance of harvesting an animal. But the success of a trip isn’t harvest, it’s a bonus,” Carpenter said.
Weiler agreed. “I’m glad I got the bear and everything but even if I hadn’t it would be been an awesome trip,” she said. “Now I want to help as many disabled kids as I can to get out too.”