Hunting With Handguns

Handguns For Disabled Hunters

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Harry Marsh - not only an inspiration, but a classic example of how strong the will to hunt is once it's in your blood.Harry at the range practicing with his Contender. His look of determination obviously comes from the heart.

By Harry Marsh

The last day of July, 1988 was the last day of my "normal life". I was involved in a head on automobile accident that very nearly killed me and I spent the next 8 months in the hospital and endured 13 surgical operations in an attempt to put me back together in somewhat the same fashion that I was in prior to the accident.


Upon leaving the hospital in April of 1989 I was confined to a wheelchair, maybe for the rest of my life. I thought that perhaps my hunting and fishing that I loved was forever beyond my reach. After extensive physical therapy and a whole lot of help and understanding from my bride, I was eventually able to walk short distances with the assistance of a cane. Neither my orthopedic surgeon nor my physical therapist thought it was a great idea. My right foot was left paralyzed and my left leg is now approximately 3 inches shorter than my right leg.

I also have lost the use of some of the muscles in my legs due to the spinal cord injury I sustained in the accident. My balance is very poor and consequently I fall a lot. Fortunately, I have been able to fall without serious injury, SO FAR!


I began to entertain the idea that maybe I could launch, retrieve and fish out of a small aluminum bass boat, so I purchased one. After a trial and error period I was able to devise a method to be able to once again bass fish! I wear my life jacket all the time just in case I should fall out of the boat! After a few successful years of fishing I began to entertain the idea that maybe I could hunt as well.


I had always wanted to take a Wild Turkey, but when I was growing up in Kentucky during the 50's there were few if any turkeys to be had. A number of years ago the National Wild Turkey Federation was formed and now primarily through their efforts Wild turkeys are now abundant throughout the country. I didn't know if I could enter the woods carrying a shotgun and get back far enough in the woods to have a chance of taking a turkey. I was determined to try. I had absolutely nothing to hunt with. I purchased a shotgun, camo clothing, boots, turkey calls and videos on how to use them and proceeded to drive my wife nuts practicing on my calls. Opening day of the turkey season here in Florida I nearly succeeded in taking one but a rookie mistake on my part blew it. Opening day of the next year I called in and harvested a nice Gobbler. Well, if that was possible maybe I could deer hunt as well!


I entered the drawing for a three day disabled deer hunt put on by the Eglin Air Force base on their massive grounds and was able to take my first buck, a little 3 point, with the aid and help of my Son-in-law and his borrowed 30-06 Browning deer rifle. A couple of my friends where I worked talked me into joining a Wildlife Management area here in the Pensacola area of Florida. I am unable to safely climb a ladder stand so I hunted out of a ground blind built by my friends. They would carry my newly bought Ruger 7mm Remington Magnum, folding chair and borrowed shooting stick and set up my blind while I was dragging along behind having to stop now and then to rest.


Once they got me all fixed up they would go get into their blinds. I was able to take an 8 point from that blind. Of course they had to go drag it in, hang it, skin and butcher it for me. What friends! Two years ago I purchased a pop-up blind to hunt out of. Larry Maxwell one of my hunting buddies owns a number of firearms including handguns. I shot one of his Contenders at the range one day and it dawned on me that this was the perfect firearm for me to hunt with. I traded Larry my deer rifle for one of his scoped contenders in 30-30 caliber. I went to the range and found a load that was pretty accurate. This last year I hunted with it but did not get a shot.


I decided that this was the only way for me to go and I sold all of my long guns and purchased a 7/30 Waters barrel and a 3X12 Burris scope. As soon as I get it all together I will go to the range and get as proficient with it as I can prior to this years hunting season. I bought a bandoleer type holster and belt for it and it will be a lot easier to drag around out in the woods.


I wrote this article for a couple of reasons. The first is to encourage other disabled hunters to consider using the Contender or Encore to hunt with. They are a WHOLE lot easier to pack around, extremely fun to shoot, and open new avenues to hunting and shooting. One of the problems I was encountering with the long gun was changing positions in my cramped little blind. It has numerous "gun ports" in it and trying to change positions from port to another with the gun and shooting stick was difficult to say the least. Those of you who are mobility impaired will know exactly what I'm talking about.


This is the position I use when hunting out of my blind. My cane is resting on top of my foot. A shooting stick would probably be better but it would be one more thing to carry into the woods.

I place my cane on top of one of my feet, place my left hand on top of the cane and then rest the Contender on my hand. Using this method I can get a very steady rest and shift from port to port with little difficulty with the shorter handgun.


My hunting areas include piney woods which will limit my shots to fairly short range and clear cuts which might provide a shot of several hundred yards. Consequently I chose the Burris 3X12 scope to cover all situations. Someone who hunts in fairly thick areas could get by with a lower powered scope such as a 2X6 or fixed powered scope.


If you are mobility impaired or physically disabled, your hunting need not be over! With just a little help from your friends you can enjoy hunting again. As most of the real experienced handgun hunters on this site can tell you it is necessary to practice, practice, and practice some more. You may never get good enough to reach out and touch them at great distances, but you can get proficient enough to make clean kills at 100 yards or less with a decent rest. I cannot wait for the next season to roll around. Even at age 64 and disabled I know I can get one with my Contender if I get the chance. I wish I had discovered the Contender years ago. I don't know exactly how it is going to feel but I guarantee you it will be a hoot!

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Recent Comments:

Poster: BushcraftCyclist    Date: 2016-12-27    Top

Great Article! Keep Moving & Stay Safe
Poster: S.B.    Date: 2012-11-30   Top

James, I had an almost identical experiance in Vermont on a Russian hunt. My Moutain Gun .44 knocked him down but, to my surprise he was back up in a flash and looking straight at me? Another one kept him down for the count. Steve
Poster: Darrell C    Date: 2012-09-24    Top

Hi Harry are you from Powell co. In ky ??
Poster: FrankLU    Date: 2010-06-06   Top

Hy good for you. I was disabled in 2000. 10 years later I'm just geting back to doing the thanks I like. It is hard but like you I'm going to do it.
Poster: Mack Daddy    Date: 2009-06-01    Top

Great,I'm a double amputee.Both legs below the knee.I just purchased a Ruger480 Super Redhawk.Crawling thourgh the woods with a rifle was a killer on my knees. Now i get dropped off at a point and radio when I'm done. I will never whine or quit. Stay Strong Mack Daddy
Poster: JohnsGuideServic    Date: 2009-01-24   Top

ihave to agree, superb story. i myself am a disabled hunter, and to top that, i am also a licensed hunting and fishing guide. in july of 1989 i was hit,as a pedestrian at over 65mph by a 17 year old girl who had her drivers license for 3 days. she was driving down the road in a brand new old cutlass sierra her father had purchased for her,playing with the radio,and not paying attention. she drifted 17 1/2 foot out of the roadway and hit me at over 65mph. my back as all messed up, my right arm almost completely severed ( and reattached by a great surgeon), my left arm had to have both bones replaced with artifical ones,my left shoulder socket and ball replaced,etc. even then, i couldnt ever imagine a world without hunting and fishing. i do get around somwhat normal now thanks to a great pain managment program, i am a licensed guide and spend my springs and summers doing what i love, fishing and hunting, and getting paid to do it. kudos to harry for having the courage to ge out there and do what HE loves to do. his type of determination is rare in disabled people anymore. there are to many people in our position who think because they have become physically disabled that there life is over and rely on others to do everything for them. they need to understand that all it takes is the will to get up,get out and give it a try.once that happens, they will see theres really not much they cant do. good for you harry, hope to see you in the woods!
Poster: wlacyIII    Date: 2008-09-11    Top

Poster: AbrĂ© J. Steyn    Date: 2008-05-26   Top

Abré J.Steyn comments: I am delighted by Harry's story. I am also well used (65yr) and in a wheelchair. I was disabled by polio from childhood, which I guess is easier than to become disabled in later life. Despite this I was a wildlife scientist and lead and still leads a full life, which to me means hunting and fishing. Handgun hunting is surely the way to go and I was one of the pioneers of handgun hunting and saltwater flyfishing in South Africa. I've hunted more than 25 years and probably shot more plains game than most (well over a thousand). I've never been a trophy hunter, but some did come my way (eg. 5 Top-5 SCI Handgun and some Roland Wards). I would like to add my voice to Harry's to show disabled people that life does not stop at a wheelchair. Having solved many practical problems, I'd like to write something for our magazine, if I may. How do I go about it? Anyone wishing to contact me, my e-mail is   

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