Chad is a hunter and outdoor journalist who has always had a great love for adventure. He knows his boundaries but doesn’t let it stop him from being who he is. Recently, wheelchairtraveling.com was able to interview him on his experiences and his personal website, followmeoutdoors.com, that encourages others to get outdoors and enjoy some recreational activities.
1. Please tell me a little about yourself.
Well, I recently turned 41, which will mark my 25th year as a quadriplegic, or as I like to tell people… professional disabled hunter. I grew up hunting on the Texas gulf coast, and really fell in love with it the day my dad took me on a duck hunt when I was about 12. From then on, I knew I’d be involved with hunting for the rest of my life.
When I was paralyzed back in the summer of 1986 in a diving accident, it was the one thing I knew I couldn’t stop doing. Three months later, I was back in the woods deer hunting. Eighteen years after that, Streamlight & Buckmasters’ American Deer Foundation voted me Challenged Hunter of the Year for 2004.
In the between time, I’d been going afield after big game all across the United States and in three different countries. I created a website called Follow Me Outdoors in 1996 which has been one of the longest running and most extensive websites for disabled outdoors & recreation.
I also started free lance writing for magazines across the west when I discovered I had a talent for outdoor articles. To date, I’ve been published in Rack Magazine, King’s Hunting Illustrated, Eastman’s Hunting Journal, Horizontal Bowhunter Magazine, United Federation For Disabled Archer’s Magazine, and Turkey & Turkey Hunting magazine.
I have a degree in Wildlife & Fisheries Science and another in Counseling from Texas A&M and the University of Houston, respectively. I suppose both are a study of animals. More recently, I’ve been finding ways to be more involved in hunting than ever before.
2. What was the inspiration behind your website, www.followmeoutdoors.com?
When I first got out of rehab and looking for info about adaptive equipment for disabled hunters, there wasn’t much to be had. The internet was just getting started and the few bits and pieces of info I found were so hard to find that I decided to start my own site and put it all in one place.
3. Were you a hunter and outdoorsman before the chair?
Definitely! I caught the fire pretty young. I had a great childhood. My dad taught me to hunt and my grandpaw taught me how to be a fisherman.
4. Who goes with you on your trips hunting or fishing? Do you camp overnight or stay somewhere?
My dad usually goes on the big trips. Sometimes we’ll invite another hunting friend of his to come along. A lot of hunting is simply being in the outdoors. I have several friends that I’ve been on trips with too though, but those trips are mostly in Texas.
I have camped, but it’s tough. We usually stay in a lodge or in a cheap motel as close as we can to where we will be hunting.
5. Where is the furthest place you’ve traveled to go hunting? Do you have a favorite place?
That’s an easy one, South Africa last year. I believe it’s about halfway around the world. My favorite place right now is New Mexico. It’s such a beautiful state with so many different kinds of terrain, from desert plains to volcanic flats to mountains, but I haven’t been to Alaska yet.
6. Please explain a day with you hunting. What do you need assistance with? Are there times when you don’t need anyone’s help?
Cell phone alarm goes off a couple hours before sunrise. I need a little help getting dressed and then my buddy and I will get all the gear together that we’re going to need. Then he’ll load most of it in the back of my truck while I go get one of my dogs from the back. I usually drive out to the blind or whatever field we’re hunting that day, and sometimes need help getting to the blind if we can’t drive right up to it. After that, all I need some help with is getting my chest support straps on.
Oh yeah, there’s been plenty of times when I’ve hunted by myself. Those are some of the best times because it reminds me of what it was like when I was younger. It’s just nice to know you can still do some things on your own still. I savor those opportunities.
7. What do you love about fishing? What is an experience you’ll always remember?
Fishing is more peaceful. It’s a quiet sport. Gives a man a lot of time to think about things and teaches him to think about things and to listen to all the little happenings that are going on around him. I love everything about it, the smell of the salt air on the coast, the sounds of the bays at first light and a spinning reel’s drag whining when a bull red is stripping line off of it as he runs.
I’ll always remember fishing with my grandfather as a little boy on the coast & the first time I went 40 miles offshore fishing and caught my first dorado.
8. Was it the lack of available information on accessible hunting that inspired you to create your website or was it another outdoor activity?
Mainly a lack of info. I wanted to make it easy for others who were looking. Then when I started to add my stories from my own experiences, it really took off.
9. You seem to have done a lot of outdoors activities, but what is your favorite activity? Please explain. What haven’t you tired yet but would like to?
I love being in the water, so it would have to be swimming or something like water skiing or jet skiing. It’s hot in Texas so we grew up in the water. One thing I haven’t tried yet is SNUBA. It’s like scuba but you don’t have to get certified or wear those heavy tanks.
10. Are you doing these recreational activities every weekend? Couple times a month? As much as you can? What do you do the most of?
I do as much as I can, which turns out to be a couple times a month. With SCI, there are a lot of times when you’re battling infections or some other kind of mystery pain. Sometimes you just have to outlast it and then start going & doing again.
11. Do you compete in any of the activities that you do?
No, I never was one for the organized sports. The outdoors is my arena. I do compete in poker. Does that count?
12. Are you more active pre or post injury?
Definitely pre. My body just can’t handle as much now. A person can still keep their mind active though.
13. What would you say to a newly injured wheelchair user about personal growth through recreational activities?
That’s another easy one… get out and do stuff. It doesn’t matter what, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like it, just get out. Figure out what it is your have fun doing and then do it. I learned several new hobbies post injury, like writing, travel, photography & poker. Be active and take good care of your skin.