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Mobility-impaired hunter bags #10 buck

Jim Chapman of Greenville, Florida proved that mobility-impaired hunters are not handicapped when it comes to being able to bag a top 10 buck.

The 65-year-old hunted Suwannee Ridge WEA in Hamilton County on Oct. 18, 2009 to take the #10 typical in the “Buck of the Year” contest – an impressive 187-pound “perfect 8-point” scoring 133-7/8 inches net (gross 136-4/8), thanks to long main beams (23-7/8 and 22-1/8 inches), 5-inch brow tines, identical 8-7/8-inch G2s, and G3s measuring 8-4/8 and 8-6/8 inches. The tip-to-tip spread was only 4 inches.

Chapman became permanently and totally disabled in 1995 after a chainsaw accident at the age of 51. After two spinal surgeries and having both hips replaced, he didn’t hunt for nine years until he found out about the “Mobility Impaired” (MI) program offered by the FWC.

“The great thing about the MI program is that it allows hunters with mobility impairment the opportunity to get in the woods and meet other people with disabilities and similar interests,” Chapman said. “I felt like I’d found a whole new family.

Then, Chapman had quadruple bypass heart surgery in January 2007. “I have teamed up with Ron Ryals from Live Oak, who is considerably younger than I am, but when I met him it was evident that our hunting techniques were very similar and that he was a fine, young gentleman that knew no boundaries, despite his disabilities (paraplegic). He’s the kind of young man anyone would be proud to call their son. Ron was chosen for the first hunt in Suwannee Ridge WEA and invited me to go as his guest. He is one of the most knowledgeable hunters I’ve ever met and one of the best at ‘reading the woods.’

“We had scouted the area on Thursday morning and drew our positions at the afternoon meeting,” Chapman said. “Ron had shown me a spot he found the year before where the recent sign was very good, but when our name was drawn, it had been taken, so we had to settle for our second choice.

“On the first day of the hunt I set up overlooking a field and spent the day watching birds. The next morning was much of the same. Around noon, I saw the folks that had picked our first choice spot move to another location.

“After confirming their move with the check station, I moved to that spot and set up on a cross trail with a view of about 65 yards down one trail and about twice that on another trail.

“I hunt from my four-wheeler and have a blind that surrounds it. That afternoon I let a fork horn and a spike walk, along with several does and a yearling. “It was Oct. 18, 2009 – the last day of the first hunt. It was a pretty cool Sunday, and I saw quite a few does and yearlings moving through this area, but I was still holding out for the big one.

“I remember my prayer before our hunt started: ‘Lord, if I could just bag a buck bigger than my first buck, I can die a happy man. Please, let that big buck find me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.’

“My first buck, which came 33 years earlier in 1976, was a 9-point that scored 99-7/8 Boone & Crockett inches. All my life I have looked for a bigger deer, but never have seen one,” he said.

“It was about 15 minutes before sundown, and I was watching the trail to the west, when I turned back to the north and saw a doe standing in the middle of the trail. She was moving toward me, and I just watched her turn and go in the bushes. I was very tempted to take her to have the meat, but decided against it. I kept watching that trail and eventually saw some movement behind the brush.

“I was stunned at first by the size of the animal. It was three times the size of the doe! I raised my Browning BAR .270 and waited for him to step out in the trail. He was the most magnificent buck I’d ever seen in the wild. His neck was swollen, and to be frank, I only remember his body size and the definition of his muscles,” Chapman admitted.

“I put the crosshairs just behind his shoulder and fired. He scooted across the trail and disappeared in the brush. I went down to where he had stood and saw his tracks in the dirt. They were large and deep, so I knew I wasn’t just dreaming.

“I looked for blood sign and saw none. I went to where he headed into the brush and saw a drop of blood the size of a quarter on a leaf and knew I had made a good shot! I knew I couldn’t have missed because he was only about 50 yards from me,” Chapman said.

“I went back to where he stood when I shot, took out a paper towel and laid it on the grass. It soon had red spots all over it. I tried to make it through the brambles and grass, but couldn’t, so I called for help from our check station.

“It was so hard just sitting and waiting. I didn’t want to try trailing him on my four-wheeler for fear of jumping him. As soon as shooting time was exhausted, two of the helpers from the check station came to help. They blood-trailed my deer for about 45 yards until I heard the first one say, ‘My God, what a buck!’ and the second agreed.

“First, I want to thank God for showing my buck the trail to my stand. Also, Joey Watson and Critter Moffett for helping locate and load my deer; the FWC for providing Mobility Impaired hunts and a big thank-you is owed to Ron Ryals for his friendship and showing me this spot. I thank Yamaha for building an ATV that rides smooth enough that someone with spinal trouble can still get in the woods and Ryals Taxidermy in Live Oak for the mount,” he added.