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Young Arkansas Hunter’s Disability Doesn’t Keep Him Out Of Deer Woods

December 13, 2006

Arkadelphia, Arkansas – Mason Archer was six days shy of his seventh birthday when his life changed forever.

He and his family were driving home to Arkadelphia after a shopping trip and dinner in Hot Springs. At 9:30 p.m. on March 12, 2005, a Ford Mustang crossed the center line of Highway 7 and crashed into the Archers’ red Chevrolet pickup. The car’s driver, whose blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit, died immediately. The whole Archer family suffered devastating injuries.

Braden, Mason’s older brother, came through the accident best and stayed in the hospital six days, while parents Charlie and Linda spent weeks in the hospital. Mason’s injuries were the worst – and permanent. A spinal injury left Mason paralyzed below the abdomen.

As he lay in a bed at Arkansas Children’s Hospital for three months, Mason worried that he’d never again be able to hunt and fish.

“That was the main comment he made,” said Charlie Archer, Mason’s father. “He has always loved to hunt and fish, and he didn’t think he’d be able to do that anymore.”

Mason lost the use of his legs, but he refused to lose hunting and fishing. Mason’s determination and his father’s resourcefulness allowed the young sportsman to return to the woods this fall.

Charlie customized an all-terrain vehicle for Mason, using features from his son’s wheelchair as a template. He modified the four-wheeler by adding backrests, armrests and a seat belt. He put stirrups with Velcro on it to hold Mason’s legs in place. Charlie also modified a ground blind for Mason.

“He had been deer hunting with me for about three years, but he hadn’t seen anything to shoot or didn’t want to shoot yet,” Charlie Archer said. “This was going to be his year to shoot, so there was no way I was going to let his injury stop him.”

It didn’t. Hunting in DallasCounty last month, Mason killed his first deer, dropping a spike buck from 120 yards with his single-shot .223. A youngster’s first deer is always a special moment, but in light of Mason’s injury; this deer was especially sweet for the Archer family.

“To see the joy on his face, I can’t tell you what that meant to us,” Charlie Archer said. “It goes so deep in so many different ways.”

Mason frequently carries around a picture of the deer, and he enjoys sharing the story of his first deer with others.

“Of course, the distance between him and the deer has grown with each telling of the story,” his father said. “And now he’s got the fever. He wants a big buck now.”

The Archers are also avid squirrel hunters, and Charlie is currently trying to figure out how to get his son back on the trail of bushytails. He’s experimenting with a design that would resemble a Chinese rickshaw, allowing Charlie to pull Mason through the woods to hunt with their little mixed-breed squirrel dog Tip.

“It’s so important to let Mason know that things are still possible, that he is still able to do the things he loves,” Charlie Archer said. “It’s a challenge, but the rewards are countless.”


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