Disabled Hunter Digs Chucks

Written by Dick Martin of the Mansfield News Journal
Tuesday, June 26, 2001

Everyone should be able to enjoy outdoor sports and outdoor living.

Mike Groff of Mansfield shares that belief and has begun to put that philosophy into action.

The Graham Chevrolet employee claims to be the only woodchuck guide in Ohio, probably the Midwest and maybe the country. Last weekend Groff helped lead Jack Neale, a Punxsutawney, PA., man, on a groundhog hunt.

Neale, who ironically lives in a town made famous by groundhogs seeing their shadow, has Spina Bifida.  He has never walked and spends most of his life in a wheelchair. Still, Neale refuses to let these difficulties overwhelm him.

Neale is a service coordinator for people with disabilities. He hunts deer and took two whitetails in Pennsylvania last fall. He hunts either from a car window or the back of an ATV that has freed him from his wheelchair.

Recently, he discovered that he loves long-range woodchucking. That's what brought Neale to Groff.

The Mansfield man takes out plenty of clients each year from Ohio and elsewhere. He often spends spare time teaching youngsters to hunt, handle weapons safely, and make long-range shots.

His specialty is making shots at groundhogs that almost seem impossible, 400 yards away, 500, even more.

Combining Groff's specialty with Neales's interest made for a perfect match.

On this hunt, Neale spent Saturday morning working with Groff about six miles from Butler. Neale bagged five chucks at distances up to 517 yards as noted on Groff's precision rangefinder.

But Sunday was a little tougher. The site was a farm with a vast hillside soybean field, a tree line, several brushpiles, and ranges up to 600 yards.

The first chuck was a young "frier" that poked his head up from a hole about 350 yards away.  Neale nearly parted the creature's hair, but it dropped out of sight unscathed. A second shot at another youngster around 400 yards away missed by maybe 2 inches. The third shot was another miss.

But on the fourth chance, with more height compensation, Neale bagged a nice chuck at 360 yards.

More outdoorsmen could learn from this pair. Maybe a helping hand from an avid outdoorsman could lead to a memorable weekend for both parties.

Legal Exception – Richland County, Ohio

Richland County Wildlife Officer Greg Wasilewski said there are a couple of legal exceptions to allow physically challenged individuals the opportunity to hunt in Ohio.

A person who is physically handicapped to the extent that he cannot walk may shoot from a stationary vehicle in a field except on a public hunting area. Paraplegic hunters and hunters missing one or both legs may hunt migratory game birds form stationary motor vehicles.

For more information on guided groundhog hunts, Mike Groff can be reached at 419-756-1640.  His e-mail address is info@ncovarmintexpress.com.  Also visit www.ncovarmintexpress.com.