Getting My First Turkey After Becoming Paralyzed

By Mason Ellis ~

After becoming paralyzed as a quadriplegic in 2015, I thought hunting was going to be impossible. However, that proved not to be the case after killing a seven-point whitetail buck in 2015 and a twelve-point whitetail buck in 2016. I wanted to try something that I believed to be difficult even able-bodied, which was turkey hunting.Copy of IMG_2123

The only turkey that I had ever killed was in 2008. My father and I had gone hunting on the same ground that he hunted when he was younger. That morning, we set up a pop-up hunting blind and started calling. I remember the turkeys replying to our calls and my adrenaline was through the roof. I was so nervous that I couldn’t hold my gun up by myself. My dad had to hold the wooden pump of the shotgun and I shot the turkey just holding the back end. I missed that hunting experience and wanted to relive it.

So my friends, Logan and Robbie, and I went turkey hunting one morning but had to leave because of the rain. We went back out that day after the rain stopped and saw some birds but couldn’t get them in close enough.

About a week later, all three of us went hunting in the same cornfield but in a different spot. We were packed three wide in my Yamaha Viking UTV and backed up to a fence that had an overhanging tree to give us some cover. We laid out a few camo burlap pieces in the front to help blend us into the background. A hen decoy was set up about ten yards in front of us and we were ready to call.

Within 30 minutes, we saw a tom turkey about 100 yards away. It had no interest in us. That was disappointing, but then we saw more turkeys coming from where that tom came from. This was our second chance and we didn’t want to screw it up. But who would’ve thought that a coyote would come bouncing out in the field?

Luckily the turkeys kept coming our way and didn’t get spooked by the coyote. Once the turkeys got closer, we could identify them as a jake and a tom. They stopped walking toward us and started heading to where the first tom went.

That’s when the wind caught our hen decoy in just the right time. The jake and tom noticed the decoy had moved and instantly became interested.

I wanted to get the turkeys within 25 yards so that I was certain I’d have a good shot. They had about 50 yards left to walk and were taking their time.

Since becoming paralyzed, I’ve learned to have patience. However, this was pushing my limit. What if they see us? What if that coyote comes back? But what if we wait and get a shot?

The turkeys were about 35 yards when they started walking to our right. This was not good because I was sitting in the driver’s seat of the UTV and I have trouble shooting to my right. Robbie was sitting to my right and pulled the towel that was under the sandbag my gun was resting on. This was enough to change the position of my gun, allowing me to shoot to my right.

Then the turkeys started moving to the left. This was nerve-racking because they were close and it was about time to shoot. We were able to reposition the sandbag and gun back to where they were in the first place. Happy with my aim, I was ready to turn the safety off.

Not having the ability to use my fingers very well, Robbie made sure my fingers were off the trigger when he turned the safety off. I told him that I might have to use his shoulder as a rest for my arm’s elbow to keep the gun steady. Now that the safety was off, it was go time.Copy of FullSizeRender (2)The tom was behind the jake and I didn’t want to get both of them with one shot. I waited for the jake to get out of the way and for the tom to turn around… BOOM! The tom hit the ground and we started yelling!

I believe Logan and Robbie were more excited than I was at the time. It took a couple of days for this to sink in for me. I had just killed my second turkey ever, and it was after becoming paralyzed! I was beyond excited. To have also shared it with two of my friends, all sitting together in the UTV in a cornfield made this an extra special experience for me.

My friends sat me on the ground to take some pictures of me with my harvest, and we wanted some with all of us. My buddies tied a phone to a stick and set the camera on a timer. I wanted them to be in the picture because it was their turkey as much as it was mine.

Copy of FullSizeRender 2This experience is probably my favorite of all my hunts. It definitely is my most accomplished hunt because I thought it was going to be impossible to kill a turkey after becoming paralyzed. With the teamwork of getting my gun positioned correctly, my finger off the trigger, turning the safety off, using my friend’s shoulder for a rest, and recording the hunt, we were able to make a lasting memory and share it with others.

Watch the video of my hunt.