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Disabled and Geriatric Archery

Beginning with the Americans with Disabilities act of 1990 which mandated that streets and public buildings be wheelchair accessible, new vistas have opened up for those with disabilities. In nearly every field physically challenged individuals are participating in activities not thought possible in the past. This includes archery and bowhunting. With adaptive equipment even the severely disabled are able to bow hunt with a compound bow or crossbow. (Physically Challenged Bow Hunters of America) is a national organization dedicated to helping literally thousands of physically challenged persons learn how to participate in the sport of archery and to bow hunt in spite of their disabilities. They have become a central source of information on adaptive equipment, techniques, equipment sources, and general encouragement for the physically impaired to participate in the sport of archery and bowhunting.  They regularly hold archery events and even hunts for the physically impaired.  The organization is supported by membership dues, and the activities are lead by able bodied member volunteers.

A full line of adaptive equipment for the handicapped outdoorsman is available from  In the field of archery this includes holding devices for a compound bow or a crossbow attached to a wheel chair and a crossbow or rifle holding device that can be aimed and fired by quadriplegics.

Often the crossbow is looked upon as the ultimate answer for those unable to use a compound bow in the traditional manner for hunting, but there are other options that allow physically impaired persons to use a compound bow instead.  The once champion archer in Michigan's Upper Peninsula who lost an arm in an accident modified his bow with a socket that fits his artificial arm to continue enjoying archery competition.  Other archers with only one strong arm draw their bow using their teeth.  A fabric tab on the bowstring is held in the teeth while the good arm straightens to draw the bow with arrow nocked.  Relaxing the jaw fires the arrow.  A Youtube video showing an archer practicing illustrates this method of shooting.

Bob Harrell, an amputee with only a left hand, has devised a rather ingenious method of shooting a compound bow.  A bowstring release is attached over his right shoulder, and a photographer's shutter release is rigged to operate the bowstring release trigger using his teeth.  The bow is drawn by extending his left arm.  The system is described in the Single-Handed Archery as a "do it yourself" project.

The most common disability that causes bow hunters to quit the sport is declining strength with age.  You gradually reduce the draw weight of your bow until One of the most useful pieces of adaptive equipment is the draw keep (also called a draw lock, but this is the registered trademark of Hickory Creek, Inc).  This is a device that holds a bow at full draw until a trigger is actuated.  Although a draw keep equipped bow is functionally equivalent to a crossbow, the experience of using it is similar to using a compound bow rather than a rifle. 

The advantage of the draw keep for a strength impaired archer is that it can be drawn between the hands and feet using the much stronger back and leg muscles.  An archer unable to draw a 40# bow, the minimum draw weight legal in many states for bowhunting big game, may be able to draw a 60# or 70# bow fitted with a draw keep.  There are three sources of draw keeps on the internet: Bow Hunter's Advantage Hickory Creek, and Pullin Archery.  The main drawback of the draw keep is that it adds weight, as much as two pounds, to the bow.  This can be a problem for the strength compromised archer.  The Lock-a-Draw draw keep from Bow Hunter's Advantage is the lightest, weighing only about half a pound.  It has further advantages in that it attaches without tools, carries on the quiver, and has an automatic safety that is always on except when shooting (you can't forget to engage it).  The inventor, Vernon Sandel, has announced a modification of his Lock-a-Draw draw keep that allows a one arm archer to shoot it.  It involves a simple system of two levers, one of which presses the safety button using the lips and the other pulls the trigger using the tongue.  The advantage of this system over the tooth tab is that one can shoot a much higher draw weight bow.

Some elderly, although able to draw their bow, find that holding a 5 lb. bow at the end of their arm steady while aiming is no longer possible.  As a result accuracy and hunting success decline, leading to discouragement and quitting the sport.  It need not be so.  The Compound Bow Rest and Holder is a bow holder that allows an archer to aim and fire the bow while the weight of the bow and archer's arm are supported and steadied by the Bow Rest.  It serves the same function as a shooting rest does for shooting a rifle.  The Compound Bow Rest and Holder is also the ideal companion to the drawlock.  While using it the weight of a draw keep equipped bow ceases to be a problem since it is supported by the Bow Rest.  State governments are beginning to recognize the plight of older archers and to allow them to hunt with draw keeps without a disability permit.  Other states have relaxed the requirements for obtaining the disability permit to recognize age as a disability.  With a draw keep bow hunters can continue to hunt even into their 90's.

WLUCTV6 in Marquette, Michigan featured several physically challenged bow hunters and their adaptive equipment on the Discovering program with Buck LeVasseur on Sept. 29, 2008 .  The program is presented here with their permission.

WLUCTV6 Discovering

We applaud those who have supplied adaptive equipment that allows the physically challenged to participate in the wonderful sport of archery and bowhunting.

2007 Bow Hunter's Advantage

906-482-6557 P.O. Box 467, Dollar Bay, MI 49922