Thom's Moose Hunting Adventure


Every person, who enjoys the outdoors and hunting, dreams of doing something really big someday. Perhaps going to the Rocky Mountains after elk. Or, across the tundra in pursuit of caribou. But for Thom Sander of Crystal, Minnesota, who was born with Down Syndrome, he has wondered in awe at the idea of taking a fly-in trip for moose hunting—this year, his dream came true.

The Minnesota Chapter of Safari Club International, through their Disabled Hunter program, is helping this 24-year old man experience what he has most hoped for. Thom is both confident and brave, but the chapter has helped open this opportunity for him, so that his courage to hunt could become a concrete reality. The real breakthrough occurred when two other hunters had to cancel their trip with Air Mont-Laurier Outfitter and Air Charter. Their nonrefundable down payments were allowed to be transferred to Thom and his Personal Care Attendant. Suddenly, Thom's moose hunting dream took a significant shift, from wishful thinking to reality. But there was still a lot to get into place before the trip was a "green light." That happened when an anonymous donor stepped up and offered 50,000 air-miles, enough to completely fund Thom's flight from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International airport to Montreal, Canada. From there he and his hunting guardian drove another two hours north, to the seaplane base camp. They loaded up on groceries, boarded the floating plane and flew another 200 miles, up into the vast, wide-open spaces of Quebec.

They landed on a remote lake and unloaded their gear to a comfortable but rustic cabin, which was their home-away-from-humanity for the week. There was fishing to do as well, and the beautiful scenery of the Canadian wilderness with its fall colors at their peak. Much of their waking hours were spent thinking about moose, and they logged 50 hours in the stands, on the trails, or working along the shoreline. But in the end, there were no moose to be taken.

The week-long trip had a variety of experiences for Thom. The first day was warm and sunny, suitable for fishing in shorts and no shirt; the last day was 1' C, with snow flurries and cold winds blowing. He saw a bald eagle and a couple of wolves, and heard them howling as he sat in his evening stand. In one day, he saw thousands of canada geese migrating South, and then the next day: nothing. On the few mornings when he took a break from hunting, Thom craved some well needed rest; sleeping for 12 and 14 hours straight.

Everyone who met Thom fell in love with him: the airline crews, taxi drivers, outfitters, and other hunters he met. He flew out of the wilderness with two hunters who had been succussful in taking a 2-year old moose. Thom was excited to see the pictures on their camera and hear the stories. When we said our goodbyes and exchanged personal cards, one hunter told me that he would clean up the horns from his moose, mount them on a plaque with a name plate, and send them to Thom as a memory of the trip.

This was a thrill...and then some...for Thom. His mother remembers him as a young child, playing hunter in the back yard with a broomstick. Back then it was butterflies and songbirds. Never did Thom's family dare to dream that, one day this little boy with Down Syndrome would grow up to become a real hunter—much less, a moose hunter.

Thom practicing his shooting

Disabled Hunter Planning Big Adventure


Every person, who enjoys the outdoors and hunting, dreams of doing something really big someday. Perhaps it is imagining what it would be like to go to the Rocky Mountains after elk. Or cross the tundra in pursuit of caribou. But for Thom Sander of Crystal, Minnesota, who was born with Down syndrome, he has wondered in awe at the idea of taking a fly-in moose hunting trip—this year, his dream will come true.

The Langenfeld Foundation is helping this 24-year old man experience what he has most hoped for. Thom was already confident and brave, but the foundation has helped open this opportunity for him, so that his courage to hunt could become a concrete reality. A big part of this came via the Minnesota Chapter of Safari Club International and their Disabled Hunter program.

But the real breakthrough occurred when two other hunters had to cancel their trip with Air Mont-Laurier Outfitter and Air Charter. Their nonrefundable down payments were allowed to be transferred to Thom and his personal attendant. Suddenly, Thom's moose hunting dream took a significant shift from fantasy to reality.

But there was still a lot to get into place before the trip was a "green light." That happened when an anonymous donor stepped up and offered 50,000 air-miles, enough to fully fund Thom's flight from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International airport to Montreal, Canada. From there he and his hunting guardian would drive another two hours north, to the seaplane base camp. After loading up on groceries, they will board the floating plane and fly another 200 miles, up into the vast, wide-open spaces of Quebec.

They will land on a remote lake and unload their gear to a comfortable cabin, which will be their home-away-from-humanity for the next week. There will be fishing to do as well, and the beautiful scenery of the Canadian wilderness. But much of their waking hours will be spent thinking about moose. They plan to take along a digital video camera and film the trip. So watch is website for future additions that will let you share this adventure in a wonderful way.

This is a thrill and then some for Thom. He has been examining the taxidermy moose mounts at the Cabela's store, and knows just where to place the cross-hairs of his scope. He has also been practicing his moose calling (which has to be heard to be appreciated.) He is excited and anxious to get started. But best of all, he feels like a genuine hunter-man—equal to everyone else out there, in every way. To put it in a nutshell: Thom feels like a regular guy.



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