OUTDOORS: Sightless hunter bags his second big buck
By Paula Evans Neuman, The News-Herald
PUBLISHED: December 14, 2003
For the second time in the 18 years since he lost his eyesight, avid hunter Richard Withey of Woodhaven has bagged a deer.
The first time was in 1998, when he was using a bow. This time, he used a firearm with a laser sight to shoot a 100-pound doe, aided by his son-in-law and hunting partner, Robert Henrietta.
"This is the first time I've been able to down a deer with a gun," Withey said.
"It's been a long time coming, but, boy, what a happy person I was. A few days earlier I missed one and hit a tree."
Withey campaigned hard for the right to hunt using a laser sight and a sighted partner. The laser sends a tiny red dot to the target, allowing the sighted partner to line up the blind hunter's shot for him.
Withey was the first blind hunter to get a deer under the new law, which was passed in 1997. The 60-year-old has been hunting since he was 14, with and without sight.
But until he could use a laser sight, he was buying hunting licenses and going out in the woods with friends and relatives just to be there, he said.
Withey and Henrietta have worked out a series of signals -- taps on his knee -- that don't require speech to help Withey sight his target without spooking the deer.
He was recently successful with a new campaign to change the law once again for blind hunters.
He now can use a cross bow during bow season. Before 2002, crossbows were limited to hunters with physical handicaps that kept them from drawing a compound bow.
"This year I was able to use a crossbow, but I missed the deer," Withey said.
But he got the deer with his gun on Nov. 19, and the exhilaration hasn't gone away yet.
"I just looked up into the sky and said, 'The spirit of the wild has descended upon me. Thank you, Lord,'" Withey said.