By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Inspiration comes in abundance at the annual Buckmasters Life Hunt at Sedgefields Plantation in west central Alabama.
Two young ladies with vastly different backgrounds and challenges provide that inspiration for everyone who loves the great outdoors.
Victoria “Tori” Blocker of Mobile, Ala., was born with a genetic defect called MPS 1 (Mucopolysaccharidosis), which affects numerous body systems and can cause organ damage and death.
“The disorder causes a build-up of fatty tissue and can cause leaky (heart) valves, bone defects and organ damage,” said Tori’s father, Phillip “PJ” Blocker. “If left untreated, it can cause organ failure.”
Tori plans to graduate from high school next year but not before she has another hip replacement surgery. When Tori was 10 months old, she went to Duke University for a stem cell transplant. Since then, Tori has undergone numerous surgeries.
“We don’t know how long we’ll have her,” Phillip said. “She’s doing well right now. After we went to Duke, they told us just to take her home and love her because they
Now 16-plus years later, Tori and her dad started hunting by taking advantage of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Hunting and Fishing Trail for People with Physical Disabilities. Visit http://www.outdooralabama.com/sites/default/files/2014-Hunting%26FishingTrail.pdf for more information on the trail.
But the first item on the agenda was finding the right adaptive equipment for Tori, who is legally blind and confined to a wheelchair. Phillip adapted a Caldwell Deadspot TreePod gun rest to her wheelchair. Then he heard of a product called an iScope, which fits over the end of the scope and the sight picture with crosshairs is picked up on her Smartphone.
“When I found out about the iScope, I bought one,” Phillip said. “I took her out to see if she could see with the iScope because she couldn’t shoot 10 yards before. It worked and she took her first deer, a doe, at 120 yards at the Upper State management area.”
Tori added, “On Thanksgiving Day.”
That was just the beginning. Tori bagged a total of three deer on the hunting trail with trips to the USA Foundation, Upper State and Little River State Forest physically
When the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association invited the Blockers to the Buckmasters hunt, they didn’t hesitate.
“We saw bucks, does and spikes,” Tori said. “I saw 20 deer on the food plot.”
“There were a bunch of nice deer in the field, but they were a little too far,” Phillip said. “They needed to be a little closer. But this has been a great experience to come to a nice place like this and see a lot of quality deer. Everybody just looks out for you, and Tori said everybody has been so nice to her.”
Just when it looked like Tori might have to wait until next time to bag a big buck, a beautiful eight-point showed up on the last afternoon of the Buckmasters hunt, and she made a perfect shot.
From a totally different world is Amberley Snyder from Elk Ridge, Utah, where her life revolved around the rodeo circuit as a barrel racer. On her way to a stock show in Denver six years ago, Snyder lost control of her truck. She was ejected and hit a fence post, breaking her back.
It wasn’t long, though, until Snyder was back in the saddle.
“I’ve been riding since I was 3,” she said. “I’ve been rodeoing since I was 7. My accident happened when I was 18. Four months after that, I was back on a horse. It was a little different because of all the modifications. I have a seatbelt on my saddle. I sit on an air seat, like my wheelchair seat, and I have Velcro straps across my legs. And my feet are rubber-banded into the stirrups.
“I took a break because it was too much emotionally with my horses. Then 18 months after my accident, I made my first barrel run. It was awesome. They (medical experts)
In fact, Snyder left the Buckmasters hunt in time to fly back to Utah and participate in the barrel-racing competition the following weekend. She runs the barrels almost every weekend.
As for her hunting experience, Snyder said she is on a quest to hunt just about every species available in North America. She’s already bagged a mule deer that’s hanging in the family’s kitchen. A pronghorn antelope mount hangs in her bedroom.
“The first afternoon we saw a lot of bucks, but they wouldn’t come within 400 yards,” she said of the Buckmasters hunt. “The second day we saw a 10-point but we couldn’t get a shot. We’ve seen deer here and there, but I want to get one that will make a good mount.”
Once she gets a suitable whitetail mounted on the wall, Snyder plans to continue down her list, which includes elk, bear, mountain lion and coyote.
“I just want one good one of each species,” Snyder laughed. “I expect that to take me several years, and my list tends to grow the more I hunt.”
Unfortunately, a shot at a trophy white-tailed buck never happened at the Buckmasters event for Amberley, so she’s off to her next adventure. She did go home with something to hang on the wall, however. Amberley was presented with the Jimmy Hinton Sr. Memorial Hunter of the Year Award because of her inspiration to everybody at the Buckmasters Life Hunt.
PHOTOS: (David Sullivan, first photo, David Rainer) Tori Blocker of Mobile, Ala., used adaptive equipment, the iScope, to bag a nice eight-point buck at the Buckmasters Life Hunt at Sedgefields Plantation in west central Alabama. Her dad, Phillip, right, and Rusty Morrow of the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association help celebrate Tori's deer. Amberley Snyder of Utah didn’t have a chance to take a trophy buck during the Buckmasters event, but she went home with the Jimmy Hinton Sr. Memorial Hunter of the Year Award, which was presented by Buckmasters CEO Jackie Bushman, left, and David Sullivan of Buckmasters' American Deer Foundation.