Accessibility for All
New York Hunting
By Josh Carney
I’ve always been fascinated by the outdoors. As a child, I hunted small game with my family in Louisiana; eventually that led to pursuing white-tailed deer and wild turkeys.
At age 13, I became fascinated with turkey hunting. I watched television shows and read articles describing how incredible it was. I wanted to find out for myself. When turkey season was a few months away, I bought every turkey call I could find. I drove my family crazy as I practiced, trying to perfect the sound. As the season approached, I begged my dad to take me; he promised he would. I grew more anxious with each passing week: each day I’d wake up knowing that opening day was one day closer.
On April 17, 2005, it was finally my day to shine. As my dad and I walked down a gravel road, I found a feather; I knew it was a sign: this was our spot. We crossed the ditch and headed to the timber. My dad picked a place to sit and I picked another 20 yards away. This was our first turkey hunt; neither of us were very knowledgeable. We began to call but got no response. I patiently waited before calling again. As a novice, I figured turkey hunting would be like the TV shows: rub two sticks together to make a turkey call and the bird would run right in. But that was not the case. After a while, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye: a turkey had come in behind me. I caught a glimpse of my father aiming his shotgun in my direction. Before I knew it, his gun went off, my body went numb, there was ringing in my ears, and my vision started to blur. I had been shot. My dad rushed me out of the woods and called 911.
I spent the next three months in the hospital. I endured lots of surgeries before going home. After just two weeks, the only thing I could think about was going hunting again. So I did. In fact, I haven’t stopped, even as a paraplegic in a wheelchair.
Hunting from a wheelchair takes extra planning; many questions cross a hunter’s mind. Is the area I want to hunt easily accessible? What is the terrain like? Will my chair get stuck? How about the parking? My truck is modified to lift my wheelchair, but it requires extra space.
Many technological advances and site modifications help those with disabilities enjoy hunting. Specially designed hunting trailers can be placed at remote locations. Some states allow track chairs on state lands, which is great because these chairs are game-changers. Some locations have raised, ramp-accessed hunting platforms overlooking food plots—I’d like to see more of those. Packed gravel paths and bridges allow me to get deep into the deer and turkey woods. Some states have programs that allow people with disabilities to hunt in warmer weather under special permits.
Several organizations have programs to help hunters with disabilities get outdoors, fostering the sense of reward and empowerment that comes with hunting. I’m thankful for these programs, and for land managers’ efforts to make the outdoors accessible to all.
Hunter and motivational speaker Josh Carney is featured on the cover of this guide.
For more information about accessible hunting opportunities on DEC lands, see Accessible Hunting Opportunities on DEC Lands.
Remember the cardinal rules of firearm safety:
- Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
- Keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
- Be sure of your target and what is in front of and beyond it.
- Stalking stinks! Set up with your back against a tree or other object wider than your shoulders and call birds to you.