Once a Hunter, Always a Hunter: Even after losing both arms

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Frank Snyder hunts with a rifle that's trigger is activated by sucking on a tube. Photo: Ed Helmick

Frank Snyder has always loved to hunt. That is the way he was raised, and that is the way he raised his family. He and his family used to go hunting for elk every fall near Vernal, Utah. A trophy elk was mounted and proudly hanging on a wall in his home. For Frank, hunting wasn’t just something to do, it was an important part of who he was. Then, in November of 2001, Frank was electrocuted in an industrial accident which resulted in the amputation of the right arm several inches below his shoulder and left arm just above the elbow. He also received permanent head injury. It is amazing that he survived his injuries. He was 47 years old at the time of the accident. Five weeks after the accident, while he was in the hospital, his house burned down with the loss of everything in it. Friends and neighbors built a new house for Frank and his family. The physical and emotional trauma that Frank suffered is beyond our normal world of comprehension. With faith and family, Frank has dealt with most of the challenges. He has adapted well and manages to be active in fixing and inventing things. However, Frank had not been hunting for 16 years, a passion that was important to him. That changed a few days before Christmas when Frank shot a buffalo.

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Frank Snyder and his buffalo.
Photo: Ed Helmick

Knowing Frank’s past passion for hunting his son-in-law, Mike Gale, discovered the Utah Chapter of Chairbound Sportsman. The mission of this organization is to make the outdoors possible for those with serious limitations and Wounded Warriors. Their activities include fishing, target shooting, hunting, and other outdoor recreational events. It is an all-volunteer organization to support the cause. Kenneth Vaughn, founder of the Utah Chapter of Chairbound Sportsman said, “Yes, it is possible for Frank Snyder to hunt again,” and a plan was set in motion.

One of the Chairbound members is Andy Dahmen who has a special gun mount for his side by side ATV that enables a handicapped person to aim a rifle with shoulder movement.  A powered trigger mechanism made by Be Adaptive Equipment of Columbia City, Indiana, was loaned by Todd Branin of Richfield, Utah. This device has three components: the electric activator mounts inside the standard trigger guard, the control box that attaches to the stock of the gun by a Velcro strap, and a suction tube that extends from the control box. The user sucks on the tube to pull the trigger. With this setup, a target practice day was scheduled for Saturday, December 9, to put Frank behind a gun sight for the first time in a long time. The practice gave him confidence with the equipment and his shooting accuracy was pretty amazing. His first three shots were in the center box of the target sheet.

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Frank’s hunting setup.
Photo: Ed Helmick

A week after Frank’s target practicing, on Saturday, December 16, a buffalo shoot had been arranged by Frank’s son-in-law, Mike Gale. The hunting party in addition to Frank included Frank’s son Brad, his son-in-law Mike, Kenneth Vaughn and his son Warren, and Andy Dahmen. The group met at the ranch headquarters of Hi Country Outfitters Bison & Buffalo Hunts owned by Dick and Elaine Jorgenson of Peoa, Utah. They have one of the largest privately owned herds of Buffalo in the United States. After a very professional safety briefing, they escorted the hunting party to their upper range. The hunting guides also presented an illustration of the best place to shoot the buffalo. The gun mount and triggering mechanism was installed and checked and Frank Snyder was hunting for the first time since 2001. Several hours were spent studying the herd, selecting the bull of choice, and waiting for a clear shot. Finally, Frank had his opportunity to shoot. When the bull dropped to the ground, the hunting guides did not let anyone approach the animal until they were certain he was dead. Then, the hunting party approached for pictures and the guides gutted the animal and loaded it in the back of Mike’s pickup for a quick trip to the meat packing plant. There is a lot of meat there for Frank and Mike’s families. The head will be mounted as a wall trophy.

Frank’s passion was elk hunting and the buffalo hunt was fun preparation for an elk hunt that is being planned. Frank Snyder’s passion for hunting has finally returned after his serious accident in 2001. The idea of a man who lost both arms being able to hunt is amazing and emotionally rewarding for everyone involved and there were a lot of people that made it possible for Frank to hunt again. We need to be thankful that we have people in our community that are dedicated to making lost passions possible again. If you are interested in donating or volunteering or seek help for others such as Frank please look at their website at www.chairboundsportsman.org or Facebook at Chairbound Sportsman.