In 2016, I was invited to attend a one day event at the Bass Pro shop in Mesa that was called “No excuses CHAMP Hunting Day.” I was invited to talk about my hunting experiences I had with disabled or physically challenged hunters.
The man who was the driver behind this event was Queen Creek resident Dan Ferraro.
Dan is blind, the result of a tragic traffic accident on Feb. 19, 2014 on Interstate 17 near Cordes Junction.
This is the story about a man who was determined not to let his disability keep him from continuing to do what he wanted in the great outdoors –hunting and fishing.
Dan doesn’t remember much about the accident he was in, only that he woke up in a hospital and was hooked up to a lot of medical devices. And he couldn’t see.
Doctors determined his optic nerve had been damaged, and he would not be able to see.
Prior to the accident, Dan lived a relatively normal life. He had a job, was married, and he had a passion for hunting and fishing.
Matter of fact, before the accident Dan had applied for a bull elk tag in Unit 22
North with his best friend, Brian Nichols. As luck would have it, he and Brian drew the tags.
Even though Ferraro was blind, he was determined he was going to go on the hunt.
Ferraro, using specialized equipment, started to search online for information on hunting for blind people. He didn’t find much, but he was resolved to keep trying to learn about how sportsmen who were blind could still hunt.
His first tried using a Go Pro camera behind the rifle scope. That didn’t work out well. His first elk hunt with his friend didn’t produce an elk, but Ferraro was determined to find a way and the equipment to allow him to enjoy his passion for the outdoors.
Ferraro met a guide named Rex Koons who told him that he had guided a blind hunter in New Mexico on an antelope hunt. The hunter, who Ferraro learned was named Mike Sanders, had specialized camera equipment that allowed him to hunt.
Ferraro spoke with Sanders who agreed to bring his equipment to Phoenix to demonstrate how his camera system worked and allowed him to hunt with the aid of an assistant.
The group met at Shooter’s World in Phoenix for a demonstration and allow Ferraro to try out Sanders’ specialized equipment.
Ferraro learned the equipment was manufactured by a company in Texas called Aero Solution. The equipment was actually for military sniper use but had been adapted to allow sportsmen like Ferraro to utilize a scoped equipped rifle.
Ferraro explained the equipment sends a signal to a viewer that allows an assistant to tell him where his target is.
“They can tell me to move the scope left, right, up and down,” Ferraro said. When he is on target, he squeezes the trigger.
This equipment wasn’t cheap, it cost over $5,000, but it would allow Ferraro the opportunity to go on hunts.
Ferraro utilized the equipment on a buffalo hunt on a private ranch in New Mexico. He took a young bull with one shot from his Browning X Bolt rifle .300 Winchester Magnum.
His rifle is equipped with a Night Force 4x14 scope. The scope is equipped with turrets that are calibrated for the load that Ferraro uses on his hunts. Initially, he used Remington Core Lokt ammo, but now uses only factory loaded ammo utilizing 200 grain Hornady VLD bullets.
Six months after Ferraro took the buffalo, he took an antelope with one shot on the same ranch.
Then it was time for another elk hunt in Arizona, but with his specialized equipment.
In 2015, Ferraro drew a bull elk tag for a CHAMP hunt in Unit 6A. Utilizing the services of Gunner Goodman, Ferraro was able to bag a 6x5 bull at 135 yards.
In 2016, he again drew a CHAMP tag in Unit 6A, and this time he took a cow elk at an amazing 555 yards.
Ferraro also has a rifle chambered for the venerable 7mm mag cartridge that he will use for deer, and a .22-250 rifle for javelina and predators.
Recently, Ferraro went on a pig hunt on a private ranch in Northern Arizona and took a hog that was estimated to weigh between 275-300 pounds with one shot utilizing a rifle in 6.5 Grendel caliber.
This sportsmen is determined not to let his disability keep him from enjoying the things he liked so much before his accident.
He has been married for 17 years to his wife Kerri, still has a job, and has enjoyed hunting and even a few fishing trips.
Next week, I’ll share with you the recent experience Ferraro and a couple of his friends had on his first fishing trip for stripers and catfish on Lake Mead.