By Clint Lindemann ~
More than just a hunt… Twist of Fate is an archery hunt based in North Dakota designed for disabled archers no matter what their disability. The four-day hunt takes place south of Leonard in the beautiful sandhills. The hunt is scheduled every year during the last full week of September for 12 hunters that come from all over the nation. The 2016 hunt is scheduled for the week of September 24th – 27th. The Twist of Fate organization was formed in 1999 by a group of sportsmen who wanted to make archery more accessible for everyone who wanted to participate.
The organization is made entirely of volunteers, like David Erdmann from West Fargo, who has been there since the inception of the organization. An army of volunteers do everything for the hunters to make their hunt a success whether they fill their tag or not. Everything is taken care of for the hunters except travel to and from their homes. Even the archery equipment is provided if the hunters do not have their own. Food, shelter, hunting license and processing of their deer meat is provided by the organization. The only thing the hunters need to bring is a sleeping bag and toiletries.
Volunteers set up the camp usually about a week before the hunters get there. The camp is set up in a perfect location. Setting up the camp is not an easy chore. The hunter’s living quarters are put up, which are tents that have heat and electricity. The main dining hall, which is a huge wall tent, has to be constructed. The road into camp has to be maintained or sometimes repaired. Since it is in the middle of a pasture, the grass also needs to be trimmed and mowed.
Some of the volunteers are also guides. The guides put in more time than just taking the hunters out during the hunt. They spend months finding good locations that are active with deer. These locations can’t just be in any location either, they need to be accessible by people with varying mobility. When Erdmann started guiding he said, “I was kind of scared, fear of the unknown. I didn’t want to break the people in the chairs. But it has turned out great, I have found it is really rewarding for them and me.” Some of the spots need to be wheelchair accessible and some spots don’t need much depending on what their hunter needs.
Each guide usually has two or three preset spots ready for their hunter depending on the weather elements. The guides also have relationships with some 35 landowners throughout the region. The landowners are generous enough to provide their land to the hunters for the event. Without the landowners this hunt would not be possible. Hunting spots can be anywhere from Kindred all the way to Anslem.
The hunters usually arrive on the Thursday of the hunt week. When they arrive, they meet their guide if they haven’t already. “Usually we have already talked to our hunters well before they arrive to find out what their needs are and what they will need help with,” said Erdmann. “We also have them shoot to see how good of a marksman they are,” explained David. Then midafternoon they head to their hunting locations, which average around 10 miles away from camp. That night, they come back for a meal at the dining hall and to share stories of the first day, and hopefully they hear some honking (it is customary for the guides and hunters to honk their horns coming into camp if they are successful). They hunt Friday and Saturday mornings, plus Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
Saturday night is their banquet and fundraiser event. Twist of Fate invites the landowners, volunteers, donators and general public to a free will supper. During the evening there is a silent auction, live auction and a live band after everything else is over.
“No doubt, in a heartbeat I would recommend it,” said Tory Taszarek, a three-time participant of the hunt. A North Dakota native, Tory is a T5 paraplegic who was injured when he fell out of a tree stand in 1989. “To be honest, [the Twist of Fate hunt] has been one of the best experiences of my life,” Taszarek shared. “Not so much about the hunting itself but because of the bonds of friendship that were made. I was able to meet a lot of great people who I would have never known otherwise. That was the best, but don’t get me wrong the hunt was awesome too, and it is so nice to have all the help you get while there.” In 2012, at the Twist of Fate hunt, Tory took his first deer with a bow since being in a wheelchair after trying numerous times in 24 years. “It was a little doe, but it meant as much to me as any trophy buck,” said Taszarek.
Twist of Fate’s mission statement says it all, ‘To provide a quality outdoor experience for those who are unable to do so on their own regardless of the circumstances.’
If you would like to volunteer, the meetings are the second Thursday of the month starting in April. For questions, please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to go on this hunt or you know someone who would be interested, go to the Twist of Fate website to fill out an application.