Brandon was born with spina bifida and is paralyzed from the chest down. He has the use of his arms and hands though, which allow him to do two things he loves dearly in his life and that is hunting and fishing.
Brandon has been taking advantage of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries new physically challenged hunting opportunities on the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area (WMA) the past two years.
Last year, Brandon almost filled his limit by harvesting five deer from the Sherburne WMA physically challenged deer blind. This year, Brandon took a doe on Nov. 28 and the 8-point, 240-pound buck with an 18-inch spread and 20-inch main beams the next day on Nov. 29 at 4:30 p.m.
Since physically challenged permitted hunters are allowed a helper, his godfather Tim Bourque was with Brandon in the deer blind on Nov. 29. Brandon said he and his godfather got to the blind about 2:30 p.m. Brandon said it wasn't long before his godfather noticed a buck in the far corner of the field.
"When the buck got within about 100 yards my godfather told me to get ready to shoot," Brandon said. "So I raised my godfather's .270 rifle and looked through the scope. When I saw how big he was I began to shake. My godfather told me to shoot when it got within 50 yards, so I did and the buck folded up and ran. I knew I hit him good, and me and my godfather high-fived and hugged each other."
Brandon said Tim then took him back to the truck to wait while Tim went to bring the buck back to the truck.
"I sat there waiting to see how big he was. When he brought the buck out to the truck we both cried," Brandon said. "We took him to the weigh station where department officials told me they haven't seen one that big in a long time. Then we left to show off our trophy to the whole town. I could not stop smiling and I'm still smiling."
LDWF started the physically challenged hunting program in 2007 by building 19 wheelchair specific deer stands on five WMAs and a handful of wheelchair accessible duck blinds on four WMAs.
For most of the wheelchair-confined deer hunts on WMAs, LDWF has made it possible for the user to drive a vehicle to the stand. On a few WMAs, All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) are required for the more remote locations. Once at the stand, the user can roll the wheelchair right into the custom made 8-by-8-foot ground deer stand.
"All of the physically challenged deer stands were built in front of food plots and in restricted areas that have never been hunted legally," said LDWF Physically Challenged Hunt Coordinator Mark Roy. "This should be some of the best hunting areas in the state as the hunting pressure has been non-existent in years past. These hunters will be in for a great hunting experience."
To qualify for these hunts, hunters must possess the free Class I (Wheelchair Bound) Physically Challenged Hunter's Permit. These permit applications and the list of requirements can be found on LDWF's Web site at www.wlf.louisiana.gov/licenses or at any LDWF district office.
For all of the deer wheelchair confined hunts, participants will be able to bring a helper. The helper will not be able to have firearms, bows or crossbows while in the stand or blind. They can help with anything the wheelchair-confined hunter needs such as retrieving harvested game.
"Before these hunts it was hard to get Brandon into the woods because his dad could not get his wheelchair into the woods," said Brandon's mother Julie Soileau. "Wildlife and Fisheries and the Corps of Engineers go out of their way to provide the handicapped with the opportunity to go hunting. We thank them for all their efforts for providing these special people with what they love to do."
Brandon's deer was mounted by Paul Gosserand of New Roads, who donated his time and services and did the work free of charge.
All physically challenged hunter permittees can utilize both regular and handicap ATV trails on all state WMAs. If using an ATV, approved physically challenged hunters must display their Physically Challenged Hunter number in black letters on the gas tank of their ATV.
This year LDWF has physically challenged hunts on Alexander State Forest, Big Colewa Bayou, Buckhorn, Clear Creek, Elbow Slough, Jackson-Bienville, Ouachita and Sherburne WMAs. All physically challenged deer hunts are scheduled by reservation on a first come first serve basis by calling an LDWF district office at:
Minden - 318-371-3050.
Monroe - 318-343-4044
Alexandria - 318-487-5885
Ferriday - 318-757-4571
Lake Charles - 337-491-2575
Opelousas - 337-948-0255
Baton Rouge - 225-765-2360