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I confess I am awed by the grit and toughness of the disabled participants. Outdoor Buddies Executive Director Dwaine Robey emphasizes that the point of rehabilitation is to DO something. But ‘doing something’ is often easier said than done. In Connor’s words, they have to get out of their comfort zones, which is rarely easy. These folks did not ask to be inflicted with their physical situations; they have to fight continuously to transcend their limitations.

I think of Viktor Frankl’s words, a survivor of Auschwitz and a renowned psychiatrist: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” These folks have bravely chosen to be involved, to find meaning and happiness. Several adult disabled hunters told me: “For these few hours, I am equal to everyone here. I do not think about my disability. That is why I treasure these events.”

I chatted with Gabriel Nissen, a young man born with spinal bifida whose thirteenth birthday was two days away. His parents drove eleven hours from Missouri to participate in this hunt, his first such experience. I congratulated him on his superb clay target shooting. I confess my aging eyes did get a little watery when he smiled.

I talked to most of the young hunters to get insights into why they hunt, knowing two truths: that hunting will not survive without the youngsters participating and that understanding their attraction to hunting is the only way to develop strategies to bring them into hunting and keep them engaged. Ten-year-old A J Rainold explained that he loves hunting because it is fun, gets him outdoors and through hunting he spends time with his family. The hunting community must nurture these qualities.

The pheasant hunt and Penny Sanford’s triumphant gumbo lunch were stunning successes. Again, Fiocchi USA helped sponsor the event, as it has with several Outdoor Buddies events. Every participant understood that a purpose richer than hunting pheasant was experienced.  It was a glorious day!

By Michael Sabbeth


Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer and writer in Denver, Colorado. See his book The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. Available at and available as a Kindle EBook.

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