Blind hunter gets everything he asks for: chance to hunt, big buck
BLOMKEST -- Diabetes and a workplace accident conspired to take away Calmon Peterson's eyesight.
Neither has been able to steal his passion for the outdoors and hunting.
And nearly 20 years after his once perfect vision has faded away, Peterson, 44, of Blomkest, enjoyed the one hunting triumph that had eluded him since childhood.
He bagged his first buck.
No ordinary buck either, but a hefty 10-pointer that will be a shoulder-mounted trophy for the living room wall.
Not that this is news to anybody in Blomkest, thanks to Peterson's dad. "He was so excited for me he called the whole neighborhood,'' laughed Peterson.
Peterson had returned home at 10 p.m. on the day of his successful hunt, and by 8 a.m. the first caller was at his door asking to see the big deer.
Peterson's successful outing on Dec. 7 was made possible in good part by Ron Welle of Melrose, whom he had met a little more than a year earlier. Welle is the founder of Midwest Outdoors Unlimited, a non-profit organization devoted to helping disabled persons enjoy the outdoors.
Peterson, a Blomkest native who had grown up hunting, had no intentions of giving up his forays into the outdoors when he lost his eyesight. Diabetes played a big role in the loss of his vision, but the worst of his problems followed a workplace injury to his eyes in late 1989. Vision that had deteriorated to silhouette images and shades of gray gave way quickly to absolute blackness.
He spent part of 1990 at a Twin Cities-based institute that taught him how to adapt to being blind.
Two years later he was walking to the Blomkest Post Office, white cane in hand, when he met a newcomer to Blomkest.
Darla is now both his wife and occasional hunting partner. Well before either had heard of Midwest Outdoors, husband and wife tried a joint deer hunting experience. Calmon held the shotgun with the mounted scope while Darla wrapped herself around him from behind, eying the scope. She helped him guide the cross hairs and gave the signal when to pull the trigger.
Darla said she has come to enjoy the outings nearly as much as her husband.
It's all about being outdoors, said Calmon. He derives as much enjoyment from listening to the wildlife and activity outdoors, and visualizing what he is hearing, as the excitement that comes when game approaches.
Calmon said that his hearing and other senses are no different today than before he was blind, but he has learned to focus his mind and pay more attention to what his other senses tell him.
Welle discovered that in the autumn of 2008, when he first met Peterson and hosted him on a turkey hunt. Peterson heard the jakes approaching long before Welle could see them.
But when it came to bagging the 10-point buck, the advantage belonged not to Peterson but Welle and the guide who led them.
Welle arranged for the hunt with the owners of Autumn Antlers, a private game preserve near Long Prairie. The reserve offers guided hunts in which the hunters pay fees based on the trophy scores of the animals they shoot. Welle said the owners were gracious enough to offer the opportunity for two disabled hunters to harvest two deer at no charge.
To Welle's surprise, it was a hunt like any other. Although the preserve is fenced, it's large enough that the animals have plenty of room to roam. They are by all means hunter wary, according to Welle.
Peterson and his partners spent all of the morning in a blind and the only doe to show was well out of range.
Peterson and Welle had gone into the hunt with the understanding that the two disabled hunters would harvest two does. Unknown to Peterson, preserve co-owner John Holig gave the signal that Peterson should target a 10-point buck that walked a field about 75-85 yards from his stand around 3:30 p.m.
Peterson held Welle's 30.06 rifle with a camera screen mounted on its scope. The digital screen showed the view through the scope and allowed Peterson's partner to help him place the perfect shot.
It's still hard to know who was more excited when the shot rang out and the buck fell. Welle said he's almost given up hunting now that he has been hosting disabled persons on hunts. He finds it more exciting this way. "You can't believe the goose bumps you get by watching somebody else,'' he said.
Peterson was delighted to bring home a long-sought buck, and a trophy at that, but it matters not to him whether he ever again shoots a trophy. What matters most to him is this: "Just to have the chance to hunt.''
"I'm looking forward to the next time,'' he said.