Illinois hunting and fishing

(Photo above) MATT DAYHOFF/JOURNAL STAR The Ruchotzke brothers, Josh, left, 14, and Jacob, 11, of Hanna City recently bagged their first deer with help from Whitetails Unlimited. Josh lost both legs and most of both hands to a severe strep infection and Jacob suffers from cystic fibrosis. The pair hope to do some bow hunting and duck hunting soon.

(Photo below) MATT DAYHOFF/JOURNAL STAR A modified grip lets Josh Ruchotzke use a compound bow. Josh can slide his hand into the grip and hold the bow securely with his wrist and forearm

A special youth hunt

October 18, 2009 at 07:40 AM

Kids needed

The Heart of Illinois Whitetails chapter of Whitetails Unlimited is looking for more special needs youngsters who want a chance to hunt.

“We’ve actually had some trouble finding kids with special needs,” said chapter member Bill David. “We could do four or five kids per season.”

The chapter will furnish hunting gear and arrange for places to hunt.

“I can’t speak highly enough about them,” Angi Ruchotzke said. “Here’s a group that wants to promote their sport in a healthy way. And they also want to do it by helping someone else.”

Click here to nominate someone or to seek hunting assistance.



Josh Ruchotzke’s first option was a crossbow.

If anybody should be entitled to a crossbow for deer hunting it is 14-year-old Ruchotzke. Due to complications from a strep A infection in 2008, he lost both legs and fingers on both hands. An honor student and a promising athlete, Ruchotzke has had to adjust to life with two prosthetic legs and a partial finger on his right hand.

“But when we offered him a crossbow he wouldn’t even look at it,” said Don Wells of Delavan, a member of the Heart of Illinois Whitetails chapter of Whitetails Unlimited.

“I’d rather do this,” Ruchotzke explained later, holding a Mathews compound bow set at 53 pounds of pressure when pulled back — a setting some adult hunters use.

That pretty well sums up the will of Josh and his younger brother Jacob, 11. Despite considerable physical odds, both Hanna City boys are doing their best to live normal lives.

Illinois hunting and fishing

And last weekend, with the help of Heart of Illinois Whitetails, they joined 2,302 other Illinois youngsters who enjoyed successful youth firearm deer hunts. Both brothers shot does in Schuyler County at the Camden Hunt Club, where operator Dennis Billingsley would have allowed them to take bucks if any had come close enough.

Credit for their success obviously goes to the boys, who slogged through wet fields and a creek and then made shots over 100 yards with their H&R Ultra Slug guns.

“When you watch these kids, it takes the word ‘can’t’ out of your vocabulary,” Wells said.

Credit also goes to Heart of Illinois Whitetails. Founded two years ago, the chapter’s focus is to help children with special needs go hunting. “None of us were real into doing a banquet just to raise money for food plots or stuff like that,” said Bill David of Mapleton. “We wanted to help kids.”

In the case of the Ruchotzkes, the chapter purchased guns, bows and hunting clothes. Members arranged hunting spots and hunter safety classes. And for the past three months they have taken the boys out to help them practice shooting with guns and bows.

“I’ve been impressed by the time they spent with the boys to get them ready,” said Greg Ruchotzke, father of Josh and Jacob. “They were really good about telling the boys what they needed to do to get ready and what to look for once they were out there.”

So far there’s only one drawback, Greg Ruchotzke said.

“They’re so into it now that I’m in trouble,” he said. “Now we need a truck and four-wheelers. They tell me we’ve got to have that stuff to hunt.”

Illinois hunting and fishing

At that the boys smile. Despite all their troubles, they both smile easily and seem remarkably positive. Both agree they also enjoy hunting. They had heard friends talk about hunting for years, but had no real inclination to get started until they were approached by the Whitetails Unlimited members.

Besides, they had major obstacles to overcome. Josh needs a custom-made molded cast to help him hold his bow. He has part of a digit on his right hand that allows him to pull the trigger on his gun. But because the skin is so sensitive, he must wear a bandage to protect himself.

Jacob has battled respiratory ailments most of his life and has cystic fibrosis, as does his sister, Emily. Unfortunately, Jacob has recently been in and out of doctor’s offices.

None of that deterred the boys last weekend, though. That they were both able to make shots from 100 yards says plenty about how seriously they approached hunting.

“When Jacob killed his deer, he jumped up and gave me a big hug,” David said. “It touches your heart.”

Josh even got a taste of buck fever after catching a glimpse at a mature deer with antlers he can still see. “It was huge,” he said.

Both brothers will have more chances to hunt this fall. First comes a duck hunt at Rice Lake Oct. 24-25 in David’s blind. Then comes bowhunting with Spoon River Woodlands.

Josh can hardly wait. He’s already envisioning his first buck with a bow.

“I’m planning on it,” he said, smiling.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Illinois hunting and fishing