I’ve known Jake Beckstrom (28) since 2007. We met 2 years after he’d suffered a serious spinal cord injury while diving into a buddy’s backyard pool. One early summer afternoon, I remember stopping over at Jake’s house to talk to him and his dad (a coworker of mine at the time) about getting Jake back into the woods hunting again. You see, prior to his 2005 accident, Jake was a diehard gun hunter for deer and turkeys.
Thanks to a longtime family friend with engineering skills and a big heart, Jake had an innovative bracket, which he calls the McKenzie Mount (photo below), built for his wheelchair that enables him to aim and shoot a firearm or crossbow. Jake didn’t own a crossbow in 2007 and had never shot one, but I needed someone to field test a new model from TenPoint for an article, and Jake seemed like the perfect candidate. Specific to a crossbow: Someone must cock the bow and flip off its safety for Jake, but with aid of a mouth clip and trigger cable, he can fire a crossbow alone.
The Beginning of a Bowhunting Career
During mid-September of his freshman year of college (2007), Jake and his dad visited my parent’s property in western Wisconsin. On Jake’s very FIRST afternoon of bowhunting in his life, he arrowed a small whitetail doe and then a tall-tined 4×4. Sitting beside Jake as he shot that 8-pointer from a box blind built just for him on that remote food plot is the No. 1 highlight of my hunting career. Period.
As the years went by, Jake joined me and my family and friends for several more weekend bowhunts in Wisconsin, and although he never shot a bigger buck than his 8-pointer, Jake proved over and over again that he was deadly with his TenPoint crossbow. Through the years, he also traveled a few times to my in-law’s land in eastern South Dakota, and it was there that he killed his first archery turkey, a jake during a late-afternoon bowhunt.
Which brings me around to the title of this article: “Paralyzed Hunter Arrows Turkey, Then Sees First Woodland Sunrise in 12 Years.”
You see, it takes a long time (2-3 hours) to get Jake out of bed in the morning, into his wheelchair and ready for the day. I won’t bore you with all the medical details, but suffice it to say that being active before daybreak isn’t easy for a quadriplegic.
With that in mind, I had a crazy idea when prior to the 2017 SD turkey season.
The Early Bird Gets the Bird
“Guys, you should leave home at 1 a.m. and drive the 3 hours to meet me near the SoDak hunting land,” I said to Kurt and Jake. “We can transfer Jake to his Action Trackchair, then hike into the river-bottom. If we get set up in a pop-up blind when it’s still pitch black, say 5 a.m., we shouldn’t spook any roosted turkeys. And even if Jake doesn’t get a shot, it will be awesome for him to hear that morning gobbling ritual. What do you say?”
Not surprising to me, they were willing to give it a shot.
Thankfully, God blessed us with clear and calm conditions on the morning of April 22, but it was chilly, about 38 degrees. So, dressed in many layers, and covered with a sleeping bag for additional warmth, Jake heard morning gobbles in the turkey woods. We didn’t film the hunt (not enough hands to carry all the gear), so I’ll let Kurt take it from here with his April 22 Facebook post.
A Hunt Recap from Kurt:
Son Jake killed this fine South Dakota gobbler just before 6:30 a.m. this morning. We heard him gobble from the roost, fly down when the sky was still grey, then slowly move and gobble in our direction, all the while staying out of our sight in the river-bottom. Three soft yelps on my slate call brought him up over the lip and onto our plateau, straight out from the shooting window. For nearly 20 minutes, at 44 yards, Jake and I watched him fan, spit, drum and fuss through an encounter with a live hen that pitched down right in front of him – then with a lesser tom that sidled in from the flank.
Finally, the dominant bird moved toward the single-hen decoy set 15 yards in front of the blind. Jake took the tom from atop the deke with a shot from his crossbow as the gobbler did an X-rated tap dance on the faux hen’s back.
Thank you Dave Maas and his in-laws for the invitation to hunt this property. And a big thank you to Chris Gulden, Scott Gulden and Bill Botzet, who helped huck the pop-up blind, crossbow, folding stool, etc. etc. a quarter-mile to the ambush spot, and get it all set up. And gratitude for Jake’s Action Trackchair for getting him where he needed to be this morning.
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
As the photos in this article prove, anything is possible if enough people come together to help make it happen. Sure, luck always plays a role in the outcome of any hunt, but like I often say, “You can’t shoot ‘em from the couch.”
Congrats to my buddy on his 22-pound SoDak gobbler. Jake’s positive attitude about life continues to inspire me, and I’m blessed to call him a friend. I hope we have many more outdoor adventures together. And I know that the sunrise Jake witnessed on April 22, 2017, won’t soon be forgotten!
P.S. If you’re not familiar with the Action Trackchair, check out the short video below. It shows Jake with his gobbler, and gives you a glimpse of the South Dakota river-bottom discussed in this article.
Images by Kurt Beckstrom and Dave Maas