Spencer McMillen Story

Be Prepared …

The Story of Spencer McMillen’s Elk Hunt

By Rick White

In September of 2004, Spencer McMillen, came to the Outdoor Buddies sight-in at the Lockheed-Martin shooting range southwest of Denver all the way from his home just east of Greeley. His mission was to make sure that Outdoor Buddies was confident that his shooting skills and safety met the criteria needed to harvest an elk near Estes Park. A long time friend Roger Viefhauf accompanied Spencer.

 

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Now this story does not seem out of the ordinary, as most Outdoor Buddies Handi-Buddies have gone through the same situation. What makes this situation unique is that Spencer McMillen is blind! When asked what he can see, he responded that what he sees is like dark dusk all the time. While he sees some imagery, for the most part there is no clarity in what he sees. Thus, finding an elk in the cross hairs of a scope was, of course, impossible.Sid Sellers, Dwaine Robey and Larry Davis all attended the sight-in day at the shooting complex. Sid was most concerned that Spencer might not be able to get ready for a shot at an elk quickly enough and also was concerned that by having two people look in the scope there was a high probability that a clean harvest of one of the Estes Park elk might be compromised. It was decided that Spencer, with Roger’s help, would need much more practice. Thus Spencer left pretty dejected when he was told he was not going to get to hunt that fall.

All felt that Spencer and Roger needed to develop a method that would allow Spencer to stay locked in on the elk, rather than move his head and perhaps pull himself off when he moved.

Not wanting to leave Spencer without better direction, Outdoor Buddies Larry Davis and Dwaine Robey did some research into available special equipment that had actually been used by blind hunters and proven to be successful. After some research, they found Wildlife Optics, via their Internet web site (www.wildlifeoptics.com), located in Denham Springs, Louisiana. Wildlife Optics had developed a device they call Trophy Shot. The Trophy Shot mounts on the scope of a gun and displays the actual scope picture that you or I would see onto a screen. With that screen clearly visible to Roger who looks over Spencer’s shoulder, what Spencer would be seeing in the scope could be seen by Roger without anyone having to move. Spencer could align and shoot without ever moving once the shot was set. This device seemed perfect!

Since it is not the policy of Outdoor Buddies to purchase special equipment for any individual hunter, a few people raised the money and the device was purchased. (Wildlife Optics did sell us the device at cost. A large Outdoor Buddies thanks to them for developing the device and discounting it back to Outdoor Buddies.)

Upon obtaining the device it was shipped to Spencer for mounting on his firearm and the practicing began almost immediately. As Roger and Spencer worked on the best method to use the device, they also decided that they should be able to get on an animal quickly and practice enough for them to be able to get both horizontal and vertical adjustments done swiftly.

With that in mind, Spencer and Roger devised another apparatus for the hunt. Roger, having worked for the Weld County shops for years was very clever in developing a two-seater shooting platform. It was mounted in the back of a truck. (Yes, Spencer did have his permit to discharge a firearm from a vehicle.) The device seated Roger behind Spencer and then it pivoted quickly to a position that was vertically in place. All that was left then was for Roger to give Spencer some hand signals whether to raise or lower his firearm. Roger signaled with squeezes on the shoulders. The system was used during practice session after practice.

The team was now ready to try the Outdoor Buddies hunt readiness test again. In early November, Roger and Spencer traveled to Estes Park to prove to Larry Davis that they could now pass the test. As hunt coordinator, Larry called me almost immediately to inform me that they had passed with flying colors. They were able to get on the target quickly and shot a very impressive pattern at 100 yards. After a year of preparation and numerous trials and errors, the two were ready to go elk hunting.

December17, 2005 found Spencer and Roger in Estes Park teamed with Lowell Fairchild, a Handi-buddy from Kansas and his long time friend JR Heldenbrand. JR is the President of Outdoor Buddies of Kansas, located in Kingman, Kansas. Outdoor Buddies hunt coordinators Larry Davis and Rick White joined these hunters.

It was a beautiful day and lots of elk were seen, but no cow elk were on any property that Outdoor Buddies can hunt on.

The morning of the 18th started the same way. About 7:30 A.M. some elk were spotted just behind one of the properties we have permission to hunt on. The elk however, had different ideas than to wonder through our property. While Roger and Spencer were in the shooting device and waiting for the elk to come to us, the elk sensed the danger and went the other way! While we were sitting there, local residents, Steve Toms and his son were searching for an elk. They know Larry and stopped to inquire what was happening. Larry explained what we were doing and the locals asked if they could help. Larry said no thank you, unless you could make some elk appear! With that the groups split up and we went back to hunting.

As we rounded the next corner, here was Steve whom we had just met waiving us down. He informed us that there were three elk, two cows and a spike bull, on a piece of property that they had permission to hunt.

They opened the gates, the truck was pulled in out of site until Spencer and Roger could get back into position. The truck was backed up to put Spencer in position for a shot. Spencer made a good shot on the elk and the fat cow was his. As is often the case, high fives were given, pictures were taken, a little remorse was felt, and a slap on the back was given to all who helped.

This ‘Blind Hunter’ hunt epitomizes Outdoor Buddies. It takes perseverance to overcome each individual’s limitations. It takes preparation and practice in real life shooting situations. It takes Able-Buddies who care, who want to help in any way they can. It takes cooperation from landowners who allow us to hunt and from hunt coordinators who sacrifice their days off to be part of these great hunts We are blessed to see God’s awesome creation, the Rockies, the elk, coyotes and deer; and if God so allows us that day, it all comes to fruition. If we do not harvest an animal that is OK too, but with the harvest comes the icing on every hunter’s cake.

SPENCER MCMILLEN 10 2009

 

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