In the beginning of the month, a story appeared in Field Notes about a disabled Minnesota man who manages to hunt from atop a tractor. In another testament to the resilient spirit of the hunter, Kevin Henze, a hunter from Illinois, was paralyzed when his back was badly damaged in a fall from his tree stand in 2009. This year, with his bow again in-hand, he tagged a six-point buck. Check out his touching story from the Chicago Tribune:
_Kevin Henze harvested a deer last month while bow hunting.
It may not seem like big news for a lifelong hunter, but it is for a man who a year ago thought his hunting days were over — forever. Henze fell 14 feet from his hunting tree stand in 2009 and landed on a downed tree. “That killed my back,” Henze, 49, said.
Doctors removed one of his vertebrae and fused four others together, leaving him a paraplegic. But during the next 53 days in a hospital, his thoughts still would occasionally turn to deer hunting.
“I wanted to go back hunting but I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it,” he recalled.
_With the help of friends, family and a bow manufacturer, Henze returned to the sport this season and killed a six-point buck as a reward for his dedication and hard work.
Henze was bow hunting alone on Oct. 17, 2009, in Stephenson County. His cell phone was dead and sat in his truck 500 yards away.
He was climbing down from his stand about 4:30 p.m. when his foot slipped and he came tumbling onto the fallen tree.
“I knew I was paralyzed as soon as I shook it off,” he said.
When Henze didn’t return home after dark, his concerned wife went looking for him. She knew the places where he hunted, but he didn’t tell her which one he was using that day.
“He always called me when he got out of the stand,” said his wife, Melissa. “When he didn’t call and didn’t answer his phone, I knew right away something was wrong.”
She checked three of his hunting sites before finding the right location.
“It was tough walking out there and wondering what you would find,” she said. “The sweetest sound was to hear his voice calling back to me.”
After the surgery, Henze began a difficult period of rehabilitation, adjusting to his new life in a wheelchair.
“Just learning how to sit was a milestone,” said Henze, who continues to go to rehab today to work on balance and muscle tone.
His friends and family organized a fundraising dinner for him on Feb. 20 at the Rock Hollow Conservation Club in Freeport. There he “joked around” about hunting again with his buddies.
The joke moved closer to reality when his friends bought him a top-of-the-line BowTech StrykeForce crossbow. One of his friends works for a company that supplies parts for BowTech, so they were able to purchase it at factory price, roughly half of retail.
Henze has had a bow in his hands nearly his entire life as his father owned an archery shop. However, his body wasn’t ready yet to handle a bow so soon after the accident._