Three years ago Jeremy Johnson was just a young man like any other. He enjoyed hunting and spending time with his friends.
Then he was in a car accident and his way of life changed.
Jeremy, now age 23, lost his right arm in the accident. He spent about four weeks recovering from the accident. Then he had to learn how to do things all over again. Jeremy was right-handed.
|Jeremy Johnson picks up the bow with his left hand and bites down the mouth tab with his teeth. He pushes the bow forward and takes aim. Then he releases by simply letting go of the cord.
Once he mastered such tasks as brushing his teeth and writing, he wanted to move on to other things — the important things, like hunting.
Like most folks, Jeremy thought his options were going to be restricted by his physical limitations. He soon found there were many options available to him.
Jeremy, who lives in Center Star in Lauderdale County, was anxious to try deer hunting again. He tried using a gun, but admitted the adrenaline rush he got from killing a deer with a bow wasn’t there.
He said hunting with a gun wasn’t that difficult. He simply placed the butt of the gun against his right shoulder and used his left hand to fire the gun.
But, as many hunters do, Jeremy prefers bow hunting. So, he began to look for an alternative.
"I used a crossbow for two years," said Jeremy. "But it was too heavy and too bulky to handle."
He heard about a man who had lost an arm who used a special harness to bow hunt.
Jeremy explained the harness was worn sort of like a vest and the bowstring was attached to the harness to allow the hunter to pull the bow forward.
||After his car accident, Jeremy Johnson is happy to return to the important things, like hunting.
He contacted the Physically Challenged Bowhunters of America to get some information about the harness.
Jeremy spoke with the group’s secretary, Karen Vought. She asked him questions concerning his health and overall physical fitness.
"She asked me if I was in good shape, if I was healthy otherwise," recalled Jeremy. "I wasn’t sure why she needed to know."
Turns out, Karen knew about a device called a mouth tab that was just what Jeremy needed to return to bowhunting. She mailed it to him right away.
"When I first saw the mouth tab, I thought this can’t be all there is to it," said Jeremy. "It was so simple."
The mouth tab is made from a short piece of nylon cord fixed around the bowstring just above where the butt of the arrow rests.
After placing an arrow in the bow, Jeremy picks up the bow with his left hand and bites down on the cord with his teeth. Then he pushes the bow forward and takes aim.
|Jeremy Johnson places an arrow in the bow.
To release, he simply lets go of the cord.
"It is so accurate," Jeremy said about the method. "You are always looking in the same spot and your shot is always the same."
Jeremy said he practiced with the mouth tab for about a week, noting the hardest part was conditioning his left arm to pull the bow forward.
"Once I got used to pulling the bow with my left arm, the rest was easy," said Jeremy. "I was ready to hunt."
And hunt he did. Within the week, he had killed a six-point deer. He was thrilled with his success.
"I had thought it might be hard or it would take a while to adjust to it," said Jeremy. "But it was easy."
He said holding the string with his teeth doesn’t hurt his mouth, noting the jaw contains some of the strongest muscles in the human body.
Jeremy said some things about his bowhunting have improved since before his accident. He used to hunt with a Matthews bow set at 66 pounds. He got rid of it a couple of years ago. Now he has a Reflex Growler set at 68 pounds.
Not content to let his hobbies end with bowhunting, Jeremy rigged a harness to help him fish.
"I have just about quit using the harness now," said Jeremy. "Now I use a Daiwa Viento reel with a twitchin’ bar on it."
Jeremy said he uses his finger to reel.
Besides hunting and fishing, he even has plans to resume playing golf soon. He said he doesn’t plan on using any special equipment.
Asked how he manages to do the things he does with his physical limitations, Jeremy is matter-of-fact in his answer.
"You can do anything you want to do," he said. "You just have to try."
Jeremy relies on the Lauderdale County Co-op in Elgin Crossroads for his deer products.
Store manager Larry Murphy said Jeremy has been trading with the Co-op for about a year.
"He buys corn and minerals from us," said Murphy. "He also likes our BioLogic line of products."
Murphy said though he has only known Jeremy for a short time, he is impressed with him.
"He amazes me," commented Murphy. "He has such a great personality. He is a super kid."
Persons interested in more information about the Physically Challenged Bowhunters of America can check out their website. The address is www.pcba-inc.org
Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.