Bauer owes it all to his buddies
It's hard to believe, but some of the seeds for NWTF's Wheelin' Sportsmen program were planted two decades before the program was even established.
On June 15, 1981, Indiana native John Bauer took a crippling fall from a tree and was paralyzed from the waist down. It was a day that changed his life forever.
An avid hunter, Bauer even requested his hunting compound bow to take with him while in rehabilitation from the accident. But when Bauer returned home, more than his physical condition had changed. What was once an outgoing, active outdoorsman had become secluded and withdrawn.
"I'm a hunter and have been all my life," Bauer said. "I secluded myself from people, from hunting, from everything. I mean, none of my friends, including myself, had ever known anyone in a wheelchair before."
That fall brought another deer season and found Bauer longing to be in the woods again. Then the remarkable happened. Concerned for his well-being, Bauer's buddies showed up at his door with a proposition for getting Bauer back into the woods.
"None of us knew what we were doing; we probably had no business being out there in the first place," Bauer said. "But they came and took me hunting. I don't think I would have made it without them. Looking back, I can see how vital it was."
That following year, Bauer was introduced to turkey hunting and his passion for the sport grew. He finished up the spring 1982 season by bagging a gobbler and developing a passion for hunting wild turkeys. He even makes wingbone calls for his friends in his spare time.
In 2000, when the NWTF merged with Wheelin' Sportsmen of America and transformed the organization into Wheelin' Sportsmen NWTF, Bauer saw a reason to become involved. He has since become the Indiana state Wheelin' Sportsmen NWTF coordinator and serves on the Indiana state NWTF board of directors. Bauer is currently working on plans for the first Indiana Wheelin' Sportsmen NWTF turkey hunt this spring.
Looking back, Bauer realizes that his hard work and accomplishments in Wheelin' Sportsmen NWTF may not have come about without those faithful buddies getting him back into the outdoors.
Wheelin' Sportsmen NWTF, which anyone can join by calling (800) THE-NWTF, offers something for everyone. "To me, this is the greatest thing in the world," Bauer said. "There are two things I know in this world: hunting and being disabled. This program has been very rewarding to me. Getting people out in the woods hunting and fishing is where the magic of this program lies."