Carey McWilliams of Fargo loves hunting. He's bagged any number of birds and animals.
But last August, he got himself an animal that would be hard to come by in the Dakotas and Minnesota: an alligator.
It was in Florida's Everglades. And it was an exciting experience for Carey, all the more so because he is blind.
Carey, now 38, was 10 years old when he lost his eyesight. But he's hardly let that slow him down.
He's a writer. He's skydived. He fishes.
And he hunts, using both a gun and a crossbow.
How does he do it?
"It has to be pointblank range to be 100 percent sure of my target," Carey writes.
"For wing shooting or any hunting, if I can hear it, I can aim for it, but if the wind or other sound interferes, I have to have someone index the shot. This is where the person tells me where to aim by whispering lefts and rights, or touching my back in a crucifix to help me, if making noise will scare the game off."
Getting regional game would be enough for most area hunters. But not for Carey. He wanted to catch an alligator. And when he pulled it off, he became, as far as is known, the first totally blind person ever to do so.
No checkers game
Carey and his guide/outfitter worked out of a building in the Everglades.
"I was warned to watch my step at night, since sometimes smaller gators made their way onto the back porch, a fact," he says, in a major understatement, "I found interesting."
Two men who hunt alligators part time joined Carey and his guide.
The four set out in an air boat, carrying harpoons and other gear.
Carey says he was apprehensive.
"Swift action and accuracy were the only weapons I had against death," he says. But then, "no one ever said this was (a game of) checkers."
Alone in the 'Glades
It was night, so the team used lights to pick up the movements of gators and saw many small ones. But they were holding out for, at least, a 10-footer.
Problems developed. The boat's engine died twice. The boat threatened to capsize. Insects hounded the men. It was miserably hot. And no big 'gator could be found in the shallows.
So the men began hunting on shore from a truck, which once nearly tipped over. It didn't, but if it had, at least they'd be safe inside and "the 'gators would need a can opener before having lunch," Carey reasoned.
Then the other men took off, leaving Carey by the truck.
Time dragged on. Carey could tell by his Braille watch they'd been gone for about an hour.
He worried. Were they OK? For that matter, was he? He was alone in a swamp occupied by panthers, poisonous spiders, snakes, mosquitoes and 'gators. To top it off, his cell phone died.
Then, oh joy! He heard footsteps. The men were back, and they'd spotted a big alligator.
They led Carey to him, who, with their help, threw a hook and line out, snagging the 'gator's hind leg. "We had to be quick," Carey says, "or he would be right in our lap, since he moved like a torpedo right at us."
The 'gator dove into the water, but the team reeled him in, inch by inch, until he could be lassoed.
Carey was given a "bang stick," which looks like a bar bell, but has a .44 Magnum shell screwed into the tip. With it, Carey killed the 'gator. "It had to be done quick," he says, "since its chin was only a half foot from my toes and he was big enough to break the lasso."
How big? It was 11 feet and 1/4 inch long and weighed an estimated 500 pounds - it was too large to weigh.
Down the road: Africa
Carey also has shot deer, elk, antelope, pheasants and ducks all over the Upper Midwest and around the country.
He's even pulled in a shark.
And his wife Victoria also is a hunter.
He's planning a wild boar hunt in Texas this fall, and he says "if health allows," he wants to hunt black and grizzly bears sometime.
He's putting all this in a book, titled, "Bringing Nature Out of the Darkness." He's hoping to go on an African safari to come up with a story to conclude it.
"My goal," Carey says, "is to show that my having a gun permit for over a decade certifies that a blind person can carry one safely."
Besides, he says, he wants to "take on all fish and game, dangerous and more common, in order to demonstrate what disabled people can do if given the opportunity."
Clearly, Carey McWilliams is right on target.
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