Adaptability to Disability

Hunter pursues passion for outdoors

Adaptability to Disability
Adaptability to Disability

WEBSTER, Wis. (MCT) - Le Ann Christensen nudged the power lever on her husband's wheelchair and guided him out the front door. She laid his camouflage blanket across his lap. She sprayed him down with a scent-masking compound.

Don Christensen was going deer hunting.

Multiple sclerosis may have robbed him of his arms and hands and legs. But Christensen no longer looks at what he has lost. Ask him about his disability, and he answers in three words.

"My head works," he said.


A passionate and lifelong hunter, he uses his head to pursue the activities he loves. And he continues to be a successful hunter, adapting his hunting gear to his abilities.


On this warm September evening, Le Ann guides her husband's wheelchair to one of three "shooting houses" on their 20 acres in the woods where he will spend an hour hunting whitetails.

His crossbow is mounted in such a way that, from his wheelchair, he can cover an area about 20 feet side to side and 30 yards of range by moving it up and down. He shoots through a window of the enclosed shooting house.

If Christensen were to see a deer he wanted to shoot, he would put his lips around a tube attached to his crossbow. At the right moment, he would suck on the tube.

The "sipper" mechanism would pull the trigger. The arrow would fly.


It has flown once already this fall, when Christensen took a nine-point buck on the fourth day of Wisconsin's archery season.

Christensen, 43, has always hunted. Deer. Pheasants. Antelope. Elk. Ducks. Geese. He has hunted not only in the back yard but in Oregon, Montana, Wyoming and the Yukon.

All of that changed in 1996. That's when Christensen was diagnosed with MS, a disease of the central nervous system that short-circuits signals between one's brain and muscles. The disease progressed slowly until about 2002, Christensen said. After that, he lost use of his right leg, then his right arm, then his left leg and left arm. Was he bitter?


"Very much so," Christensen said. "It's the 'Why me?' attitude."

But he put his own situation in perspective when he helped a young boy in Texas who was suffering from cancer find a guide and make a dream bear hunt in Alaska.

"No matter how bad you've got it, there are a lot of people who are a lot worse off," Christensen said.

Medicine he began taking in 2006 "stopped my MS in its tracks," he said. He has continued to hunt deer, antelope, bear and wild turkeys. One look at the photos on his Web site shows how successful he has been. Bucks and does with crossbow, rifle and blackpowder rifle. Wild turkeys with shotguns.

He does miss pheasant hunting, which he grew up doing in southwestern Minnesota.

"I can't take my wheelchair in a swamp," he said.

When he was forced to quit his work with troubled children and go on disability in 2004, he started to help other hunters and anglers with disabilities. He became disability coordinator for outdoor television host Babe Winkelman, a position he still holds.

Winkelman paid for the first voice-recognition software for Christensen's computer, allowing him to "type" by speaking to his computer.

That same year, Christensen began developing his Web site, www.afarcry.info, designed to help those with disabilities keep hunting and angling.

Le Ann's contributions are integral to Christensen's hunting and his helping of hunters with disabilities through his Web site. She supervises computer technology for the Webster public schools, working from home in the mornings and at school in the afternoons.

When Don's muscles need to be stretched, Le Ann stretches them. When his 180-pound frame needs to be hefted from his wheelchair and transferred to a recliner chair, Le Ann does the lifting. When his nose itches, she rubs it.

She has gutted deer, too, but typically that duty - and dragging deer from the woods - falls to the couple's son, Riley, 16. A daughter, Beth, 20, attends college, but she'll be home to hunt deer this fall.

Le Ann brings an upbeat personality and high energy to caring for her husband. But she admits it's draining.

"It gets a little bit frustrating, because you can't figure everything out," she said. "And it takes money."

The electronic wheelchair Don uses sells for nearly $20,000. He would like an electric door opener for the house, but it's $1,700. Insurance pays for some "durable medical goods," such as the wheelchair, but not nearly everything, he said.

Don and Le Ann have solved some problems with ingenuity. They fashioned a rifle rest for Don's wheelchair from PVC pipe, then had a welder make an aluminum version.

"They know us at the hardware store," Le Ann said.

They get in jams now and then because Don pushes his wheelchair beyond its recommended uses. Such as the time he mired down in a wet area along one of his trails. That necessitated a rescue by four-wheeler.

"You do not tie the tow strap to the arms of the wheelchair," Don said. "It pulls you down nose-first. I learned that from personal experience."

"One of these days, we're gonna get ourselves into a heck of a lot of trouble," Le Ann said.

No deer came by Don's shooting house on this recent evening.

"It's too warm," he said.

At dusk, Le Ann came walking out to get him. She eased the wheelchair down the ramp and along the sand path.

On the way in from the shooting house, Don asked her to guide his chair up to another shooting house that overlooks a food plot. He sat there for a few moments, looking out into the thickening night for the shapes of deer.

A hunter.

Always scouting.

When the darkness was complete, Le Ann turned the wheelchair around and eased Don along the path, back to the yard light and home.

© 2008, Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minn.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

RIO Slickcast Fly Lines

RIO Slickcast Fly Lines

Chris Walker, with RIO Products, talks with Editor/Publisher Ross Purnell of Fly Fisherman magazine about the new SlickCast lineup of fly lines for 2020.

Yo-Zuri

Yo-Zuri's 3DB Pencil Popper, 3DB Jerkbait 110 & 110 Deep

Bass pro Clent Davis gives the inside info on Yo-Zuri's new-for-ICAST lures.

Daiwa Dark Water Rods

Daiwa Dark Water Rods

From barracuda to wahoo to kingfish to sailfish and beyond, these new Daiwa saltwater rods rely on HVG technology (that makes them 50% lighter), soft tips to protect leaders as big fish make strong runs, and strong backbones to help anglers crank up hard-fighting species from below.

Portable Hornady Rapid Safes - Security on the Water

Portable Hornady Rapid Safes - Security on the Water

Hornady Security has a new line of portable safes with applications for anglers who want to have a firearm on board their boats, just in case.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options. Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

Innovation, customization, continue to lead the way in fishing-tackle storage. ICAST

ICAST 2020: New Tackle-Management Systems

Game & Fish Staff - July 16, 2020

Innovation, customization, continue to lead the way in fishing-tackle storage.

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

From a world-record crappie to the best gear of the year, these hunting and fishing articles were most popular with our readers. Stories

Game & Fish's Top 10 Stories of 2018

G&F Online Staff - December 24, 2018

From a world-record crappie to the best gear of the year, these hunting and fishing articles...

We know we have to follow legal regulations, but how do you apply personal ethics to the hunt? Stories

The Gray Area of Hunting in America

Andrew McKean - April 27, 2020

We know we have to follow legal regulations, but how do you apply personal ethics to the hunt?

Midwestern turkey hunters and others are hitting the woods. So are a variety of harmful tick species. Conservation & Politics

Tick Talk: What You Need to Know Pre-Hunt

Patrick Durkin - May 14, 2020

Midwestern turkey hunters and others are hitting the woods. So are a variety of harmful tick...

Calling all coyotes:'These predators are efficient, so finding and calling them to the gun can Stories

Predator Hunting: 3 Ways to Find Elusive Coyotes

Brad Fitzpatrick - June 26, 2018

Calling all coyotes:'These predators are efficient, so finding and calling them to the gun can

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now