By John Martino
It can happen in the blink of an eye. We refuse to think about it, but the truth remains. Without a moment’s notice, the rest of our life can change in a split second, sometimes through no fault of our own.
In 1993 Ross Ryan was on top of life. He was young, he was healthy and he was in his final year at Indiana State University. In a few short months he would receive his degree in criminology and he was excited about starting a career.
With his final spring break on the horizon he made plans to travel to Florida. The warm weather and the thought of seeing his family who resided there pleased him.
The popular school vacation arrived and Ryan soon found himself traveling into Tampa with his girlfriend, grandmother and great aunt. Little did he know his life was about to change forever. The pendulum of fate would soon swing from anticipated happiness to tragedy.
Without warning, an oncoming van crossed the center line, hitting the car carrying Ryan and his family. Both vehicles were left an unrecognizable mess of twisted metal. It would be the last time Ryan would ever walk.
His next two months were spent in the hospital where he underwent numerous surgeries to repair a torn aorta, among other serious injuries. It wasn’t the spring break he had hoped for, yet he was lucky to remain alive. In spite of his injuries, he was thankful his family survived the horrific crash, although the same could not be said about the driver of the other vehicle.
Since childhood, Ryan has loved to hunt and fish. After months of recuperating and physical therapy, he wondered if his love of taking to the field and waters would end, since the rest of his life would be spent in a wheelchair.
He remembers staring out his living room window, recalling how the soft autumn sun used to warm him while he sat in his tree stand. He could still feel the gentle breeze, the earthy smell of drying leaves and the woods readying itself for its winter nap. “I had decided then that if there’s a will there’s a way and even though the accident had taken away my mobility, it wasn’t going to take away my hunting and fishing,” he explained.
Several years later, as the air turned brisk and the leaves took on their beautiful fall hues Ryan purchased a crossbow and found himself back in the settings he loved. “The first couple years were difficult trying to get around,” he said. “But each year became a little easier.”
He had discovered that people with disabilities can continue to enjoy the outdoors, with proper equipment and desire. “When you wake up every morning and you are disabled, you have a totally different perspective on life,” said Ryan. “And just because I was in a wheelchair, I still wanted to live my life to the fullest.”
Ryan accomplished more than successful recuperation, he made a return to his passions. “So many people take hunting and fishing for granted - as did I,” he said solemnly. “I sure don’t anymore.”
Since then, Ryan has joined the ranks of successful deer hunters. Several years back he even collected two deer on the same morning. “It was awesome,” he said, recalling that special day. “That’s when I realized I could actually do anything I set my sites on,” he said.
As time went on, he later purchased a pontoon boat he kept on Salamonie Reservoir. “That boat worked out great as it gave me the opportunity to get back on the water,” he explained.
His never-give-up attitude extends far beyond his passion for our natural resources. He resides in rural Howard County where he insists on mowing his own yard, which spans several spacious acres. “As long as I can pull myself up on the mower, it’s something I will always take care of,” he added.
“Now, I am really looking forward to taking my son Wade hunting,” Ryan continued. “In addition to deer, we are going to start hunting squirrels and coyotes as well, to give us more time in the woods together,” he added.
One thing slowly became evident while talking to Ryan. I believed as much as anything that his urge compelling him to be a hunter was also his search for freedom and for the personal adventure inherent in such freedoms. Just as game species may be the truest indicator of a quality natural environment; hunting can be a true indicator of quality natural freedoms.
“I may be injured,” Ryan said with a confident smile, “But I am still in the game!”
Early Archery Season Hunting Results
Area bowhunters continue their success in spite of dealing with strong winds spurred by the remnants of Hurricane Sandy. Here is this week’s list of hunters who have taken deer to one of our area’s approved deer check-in stations. This information, which includes field-dressed weights, is provided by Bryant’s Outdoor Store, Burlington Meats, Simpson’s Deer Processing and U.S. 31 Bait and Tackle.
Kenneth Lawrence – 185-pound, 13-point buck; Travis Rose – 100-pound doe; Jerry Rose – 120-pound doe; Jeff Reed – 100-pound doe; Anthony Lees – 135-pound, seven-point buck; Dennis Riggs – 125-pound doe; Pat Murray – 140-pound, nine-point buck; Conner McWhirt – 140-pound, eight-point buck; Mike Kelly – 150-pound, six-point buck; Larry Kappes – 165-pound, 10-point buck; Greg Tate – 155-pound, 12-point buck; Devin Drake – 125-pound, six-point buck; Mike Deis – 145-pound, six-point buck.
Irvin Holden – 140-pound, six-point buck; Luke Calvin – 135-pound, four-point buck; Noel Evans – 70-pound doe; Zack Rodman – 140-pound, eight-point buck; Jamey Miller – 70-pound doe; Scott Barber – 140-pound, six-point buck; Doug Barnett – 150-pound, nine-point buck; Anthony Liggett – 200-pound, nine-point buck; Brandon Parks – 135-pound, eight-point buck; Leroy Pannier – 115-pound doe; Kenny Laughman – 75-pound button buck; Rob Conyers – 196-pound, eight-point buck; Rob McClain – 120-pound, six-point buck.
John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at email@example.com