You Can’t Cease the ‘Legless Shed Hunter’ From Discovering Antlers
At any given time of yr, you’re prone to discover Hayden Bailey exterior, whether or not he’s catching catfish and snapping turtles, taking pictures squirrels, deer searching, or pursuing one in all his biggest passions: shed searching. The Chillicothe, Illinois, resident likes to spend each minute exterior, particularly together with his spouse, Abby, and their young children. In actual fact, Bailey has all the time been an outdoorsy man, tagging alongside together with his dad to search for sheds and arrowheads when he was only a child.
However his ardour for the outside was practically stolen from him. In October 2013, he was in a critical automobile accident. He spent 47 days within the hospital—18 of them in a medically induced coma. He had damaged his neck and medical doctors amputated each his legs above the knee. He was fortunate simply to be alive.
For most individuals, this life-altering occasion would have ruined their lives. They’d have give up their hobbies and maybe struggled with melancholy. However when you spend only one minute speaking to Bailey, you’ll rapidly be taught he’s not like most individuals. The zest for all times and the willpower to succeed gushes out of him.
“After they mentioned you’re lacking each your legs now, I figured it could maintain me again for some time,” Bailey mentioned matter-of-factly. “It actually didn’t matter to me the way it was going to occur (getting again into the outside). That was all the time going to be a part of my life.”
Bailey rapidly received again out after his accident, solely lacking one deer season as a result of he was within the hospital many of the fall. As a bilateral above-knee amputee, he has two units of prosthetic legs: his “lengthy legs” and his “quick legs.” He wears his “lengthy legs” for his job as a pipe fitter and for on a regular basis life. These high-tech prosthetics have hydraulic cylinders and a microprocessor laptop, which permit him to stroll round in a really regular vogue.
“It’s like strolling on stilts which have hinges on the underside,” Bailey mentioned. “I put these legs on at 5 within the morning, and I stay a very regular day.”
Bailey’s “quick legs,” or “stubbies,” have their place, too. The stubbies merely bolt to the underside of the socket on Bailey’s legs. They’re easier to make use of, weigh much less, and provides Bailey higher leverage. These are what he wears for deer searching. He drives his ATV many of the method to his ladder stand, however walks the final quarter-mile.
With a little bit ingenuity, Bailey made himself some fairly specialised deer searching footwear. He reduce chunks out of an previous mud tire with a chainsaw and made rubber sneakers that connect to his stubbies. He notched out gaps in the course of the stubbies that align with the rungs on his ladder stand. In winter, he places screws within the rubber, and he’s received ice cleats. The one drawback of the stubbies is Bailey solely stands 4’4” with them. He’s 5’8” together with his lengthy legs.
Shed Searching on Stubbies
Bailey will get giddy while you begin speaking about shed antlers.
“One thing a few whitetail shed is simply the best freaking factor on the earth to me,” he mentioned. “It’s a diamond within the tough; a needle in a haystack. I actually get a kick out of sheds.”
He’s had some memorable shed hunts through the years. He fondly remembers a time when, as a boy, he and his father scooped up greater than two dozen antlers from a single area in only a couple hours. He discovered two matched units of Boone & Crockett-class bucks in the identical yr as soon as (which, after all, have been displayed on the head desk at his marriage ceremony reception). And he and Abby as soon as witnessed an 8-pointer shed an antler—on Could 1!
“Me and my spouse have been driving down this filth street,” Bailey recalled. “There have been three deer within the area, working towards the street and one was this huge, heavy 8. He hopped the ditch, hit the street together with his hooves, and an antler popped off! I can see it in sluggish movement. It fell off his head and rolled off his again haunches.”
It was most likely the best shed both of them will ever discover, they usually think about it a shared antler.
For the primary few years after his accident, Bailey did most of his shed searching from an ATV or truck. Ultimately, he determined to attempt strolling for sheds. “I noticed, hey, I can sort of stroll round,” Bailey mentioned. “It was a liberating second. There’s journey hazards—ice and dust. It’s more difficult, and it might put on me out greater than a traditional individual, however I used to be like, ‘hey, I can do that like a traditional individual.’”
The primary antler he discovered on foot after his accident wasn’t essentially huge, however his achievement find it was huge.
“It was a number of years after my accident,” Bailey recalled. “Life was just about again to regular. I used to be speaking to a buddy who had not too long ago moved out of state. He graciously stuffed me in on his public land hotspots. Till then, I had little or no expertise with public land and all the time saved my actions to personal. Nicely, you may’t use an ATV on public lands in Illinois, so it turned a brand new problem to attempt to stroll some floor.”
Bailey had tried strolling when on the lookout for sheds beforehand, however with no success.
“It did make it simpler to get into tight, brushy bedding areas, however I couldn’t see very far and journey was very sluggish. So I did some analysis on Google Earth and onX Hunt and I received despatched a pair hours away from house for work, and determined to cease at a public spot on the way in which house that day.” he mentioned. “It was my first time strolling for sheds in my full-length prosthetics. The bottom was frozen and vegetation had been lifeless and laid down by snow, so strolling was not tremendous restricted. I used to be most likely 45 minutes from my work van and got here to a spot the place a number of deer trails intersected within the snow. I seemed up, and there was a tine. I double-checked it with binoculars, and it was undoubtedly an antler. I significantly may have cried. It was a really good 3-point (it ought to have been a 4 however the forehead was snapped off). I barely seemed for the opposite aspect, to be sincere. I used to be so thrilled, I mainly picked it up and went straight again to the van to drive house. That day I used to be hooked. I had proved to myself I may do it and achieve success. It was a liberating accomplishment that really set the tempo for a lot of shed seasons to return.”
The Energy of a Optimistic Angle
Bailey has largely taken his new life, effectively, in stride.
“I’m fortunate and blessed that I used to be born with the perspective that I’ve received,” he mentioned. “You’ve simply received to attempt. You simply need to have a constructive perspective since you don’t know what you’re able to.”
He makes use of that perspective to assist others address the adjustments in their very own lives. He’s a affected person advocate for Dream Staff Prosthetics at Bilateral Life Camp in Duncan, Oklahoma. His constructive perspective helps new amputees address their scenario and be taught to take again their lives.
“Amputees come from everywhere in the world,” Bailey mentioned. “We speak to different individuals and say these are the steps you’re taking; these are the commitments you make.”
Dream Staff Prosthetics made an enormous distinction in his personal high quality of life. “They helped me get to the place I’m, they usually actually know what they’re doing for a bilateral, or anybody, actually,” Bailey mentioned. “My extremely lively outdoorsman way of life couldn’t have continued with out them.”
Again house, Bailey is all the time good for a phrase of encouragement. He dubbed himself the “Legless Shed Hunter” and usually posts to shed searching Fb pages. In his movies, he usually encourages different shed hunters to hold in there, placed on the miles, and the sheds will come.
After I spoke to him, he hadn’t discovered many sheds for the season, however that did not matter.
“One among my objectives was to stroll greater than I had earlier than and see issues I hadn’t seen,” he mentioned. “I used to be at 38 or 39 miles when I discovered my huge 5. I’m at 46 miles proper now. I’m going to go stroll round a bean area simply to make it an excellent 50.” (He has since reached the 50-mile mark for the season).
Bailey has all the time been a deer and shed hunter, however now as a double amputee, he’s had extra success on the lookout for antlers than killing deer.
“When the woods begin rising up and greening up, it makes it so much more durable for me,” he mentioned. “In shed season, there are not any vines. The grass is matted down. It’s extra of a stage taking part in area for me.” In actual fact, having prosthetic legs truly has some benefits. He can stroll proper by briars with out feeling a factor!
Bailey discovered so much about his ardour for the outside from his father. And he nonetheless enjoys shed searching together with his dad, who’s now retired.
“Between him and me, we’re each a little bit slower, however we get on the market!” Bailey mentioned.
Nowadays, Bailey will get exterior each time he can, however life has not too long ago gotten a lot busier with 4 youngsters at house, together with twin ladies born in January. It doesn’t matter what he does, whether or not it’s searching, fishing, or simply staying in together with his household, Bailey has a giant coronary heart, an actual love for his household, and a contagious constructive perspective. And he doesn’t remorse the accident that radically modified his life at age 21.
“I used to be nonetheless mainly discovering myself,” Bailey mentioned of his life on the time of the accident. “I believe it has helped form me into who I’m immediately. Two years in the past, I got here to the belief that if I may return in time and never take that curve, would I? And I actually nonetheless suppose I’d have. My persona has all the time been the identical. I’m simply doing the identical factor I’ve all the time performed.”