Like many men from rural southern Illinois, Jim Dawe started hunting as a boy with his dad. For nearly five decades, he collected scores of trophies without accident—until 2005.
Now 63, the retired U.S. Army first sergeant recalls the November morning he set out on his property, as he often did, hoisting his compound bow and climbing the steel ladder to the 12–foot platform to await his quarry. But this time Dawe began feeling uneasy, lightheaded. Preparing to descend, he slipped from the ladder’s top rung and fell backwards to the ground, breaking his spine. Without cell phone or the ability to move, he was stranded for 14 hours until neighbors found him. He spent the next several months in a hospital.
“I didn’t know if I was going to live, let alone hunt again,” he says. Dawe did survive, but not unscathed; he’s paralyzed from the waist down. But he can still bag an 11–point deer, thanks to Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, on the northern edge of the Ozark foothills west of Marion, IL, not far from Dawe’s home. For the past 24 years, the refuge has hosted a whitetail deer hunt for the disabled the weekend before Thanksgiving.
“It’s something we really look forward to,” says Dawe, who has participated the past four years.
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