Bob Thomas enjoyed hunting at an early age and it became an important part of his life.
Bob said, “As a kid, I grew up watching my uncle and father get ready to go hunting and I developed a passion to go with them. At age 12 I began to hunt and enjoyed it. But when I was a young teen I was diagnosed with Von Hippel-Lindau, which is a rare family genetic disease. In my early teens the problem was treated, however in 2003 I lost my eyesight in both eyes.”
The memories of Bob’s hunting experiences remained. Over the course of the next 10 years the outdoors and hunting remained on his mind. Within that same timeframe he became a pastor and often talked to others about hunting.
Bob said, “In the fall of 2013 I was listening to U-Tube videos about hunting in PA. Even though I felt hunting was out of the question, still I wanted go to the woods again.”
Scott Schultz became inspired by Bob’s desire to once again go hunting. Over time the pair worked at making Bob’s desire become a reality.
Scott said, “I learned about a piece of technology called an iScope. The device has a wide range of applications, one of which, when properly applied, would allow someone who was is blind to shoot and potentially hunt.”
The iScope has a smartphone scope adaptor attached directly to the ocular lens or pupil lens of a shotgun or rifle scope. The shooter looks through this end of the scope and sees the field of view and the crosshairs. In this case, with the iscope connected to the firearm’s optics, the smartphone’s camera provides the scope’s field of view.
There are additional applications for the device, however the viewing capability was exactly what Bob was looking for.
Scott went on to say, “We set the device up on the scope mounted to my .22 magnum rifle. On the range Bob was in complete control of the rifle. I provided instructions to Bob describing how he should move the rifle so that the scope’s crosshairs would line up to the center of the target. We worked together, and with some practice Bob was able to acquire the target hitting it dead center. Things were coming together.”
Scott said, “At this point in time Bob’s excitement level was growing. His next goal was to go squirrel hunting.”
Bob and Scott visited Dave McBride’s Taxidermy Shop in Clearfield. Dave said, “Bob and Scott came to my shop and explained that they were going on a “Great Squirrel Hunting Adventure”. I was inspired that Bob would even give it a try. Then they got the shotgun to be used. They shot on my range, however things were not working out with the iscope and the shotgun.”
Dave went on to say, “Being an avid turkey hunter, I’ve always relied on some type of optics on my shotgun. I knew we could improve on the sighting system.”
In short order Dave came up with a different sighting device for Bob’s shotgun.
“I used a Burris Speed Bead, which is a holographic type of site. When looking through the device on most any angle, if you can see the dot and put it on the target and squeeze the trigger, that’s where the round, or in this case the shot, would hit,” Dave said.
And from that point the idea of the squirrel hunt was put on the back burner and a spring turkey hunt came front and center. However before the turkey hunt the three hunters spent time on the shooting range.
The next piece of equipment acquired was a shooting rest affixed to a tripod. Shooting at thirty yards, Bob was hitting the target. At this point Dave said to Scott, “We can get this done.”
In order to hunt turkeys, a blind was needed. Bob, Scott, and Dave invested additional time shooting from a blind. The three worked as a team. Scott and Dave learned to communicate in ways that were quick and concise. By doing so Bob was able to make exacting adjustments with his shotgun as needed.
Bob said, “The guys were very good explaining what was happening. And this paid off in the field.”
“In the blind I had to sit in a comfortable position and one that would allow me to move as necessary. We constantly worked to make things happen,” Bob pointed out.
Bob went on to say, “One of the hardest things for me to learn was to relax. When we are in the blind and I’m holding the shotgun, I had to learn to hold my head back so Scott or Dave could be certain the dot was lined up on the target.”
“Since I could see at one time it was easy to see in my mind’s eye what was unfolding in front of me. When we went spring gobbler hunting, the sounds of a twig snapping, calling, and birds gobbling, it’s exciting.” Bob said.
Bob also said, “In every case when I shoot a turkey or other game, the guys would walk me to it. Along the way they explain what they see. I take great pride in affixing the tag to the turkey and deer that I have taken.
“I want to hold and feel the animal. And in the case of turkeys, there’s no greater experience in feeling the weight of the bird over my shoulder. I can’t see like others, but I do “see” in my own way.”
“Bob is truly an active participant. When at our hunting spot, Bob is ready to go. He holds on to one of our arms and walks everywhere we go. And you know he is pretty good in the woods. He even takes part in setting up the bind,” Dave said.
When this group of hunters gets together, they are just like everyone else. They have fun.
Dave said, “Bob always wants to get behind the wheel of my truck and drive. I tell him, I’ll take care of that.”
Bob said with a chuckle, “Often when I’m asked about hunting spring gobblers ‘How do you it?’ my reply is, I just hear the bird gobble, then point and shoot! No, I’m not serious, but the statement gets some interesting responses.”
Bob remarked about his hunting companions. “We have a lot trust and faith in each other. Scott and Dave readily give up their hunting time for me.
Bob said, I live life. Remember, just because you may not be able to do this like you used to, doesn’t mean you can’t. Philippians Chapter 4, verse 13: I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power. God has opened this door for me.
By the end of spring gobbler season no doubt Bob will have had ample opportunity to harvest a bird. Even if he doesn’t harvest a bird, the stories he will have to tell will be more than interesting.
Bob Thomas is a native of Rockton/ He graduated from DuBois Area High School and is the pastor of the Church of The Nazarene in Knox.
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Charlie Burchfield is an active member and past president of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association, an active member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, Outdoor Writers Assoc. of America and the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers. Gateway Outdoors e-mail is GWOutdoors@comcast.net