When Ken Jezek hurt his back on the job last year he was determined not to let the injury alter his lifestyle.
A lifelong deer hunter, Jezek, 62, Brainerd, knew he had to change tactics. Climbing into a tree stand was no longer possible. He would have to hunt on the ground. Already facing change, Jezek took it a step further: Why not hunt with a crossbow?
Crossbows are illegal in Minnesota except for hunters with disabilities. Jezek qualified for the special permit and now is tuning a Horton crossbow for the coming deer season. He's also reaching out to other disabled hunters who might be in the same predicament.
Ken Jezek took up crossbow hunting when he injured his back. He had to get a special permit to use a crossbow in Minnesota. Otherwise it's illegal.
"If you stay at home all the time it finally gets to you," Jezek said.
So in partnership with the DNR, Jezek has created Windows of Opportunity, a program whose goal is to unite disabled hunters with landowners who want deer removed from their land. Details are still being worked out on how the program will operate, but the Brainerd chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association will help sponsor the program and Jezek is looking for other sponsors.
Gander Mountain and Reed Sporting Goods have helped with promotions, too. Jezek has spent time in both stores talking to disabled hunters. He's recruited 35 people who will form the base of the new program. The goal is to harvest deer from places where they're a nuisance and can't be shot with guns.
With a 150-pound draw weight, a crossbow is definitely a lethal weapon. Ken Jezek has yet to take a deer with a crossbow, but hopes to this fall.
The model for the new group is the Metro Bowhunters Resource Base, which harvests deer by archery in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Windows of Opportunity's doors are open to regular archery hunters as well.
Since many deer-related problems take place within city limits, Jezek has contacted six local municipalities to determine how the new group can operate within their bounds. Jezek said he's been well received by city officials who want nuisance deer eliminated. None of the cities prohibit archery, but some, such as Baxter, prohibit hunting of any kind, and Breezy Point requires advanced bowhunters education.
Gary Drotts, DNR area wildlife manager, said he's seeking landowners who are willing to let archers hunt on their land. Many landowners will be more receptive to the program when they learn that the archers have advanced certification, Drotts said. He added that the DNR might sponsor a local crossbow hunt next fall.
Ken Jezek is the founding father of Windows of Opportunity, a group that aims to get disabled hunters and other archers onto private land where deer populations are too high. The hunters would have advanced archery training.
Interested in becoming part of Windows of Opportunity? Call Jezek at 829-2106 or Drotts at 833-8620.
VINCE MEYER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5862.
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