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It's not the same this year for Todd Amenrud

1/6/2005

Todd Amenrud's hunting bow hangs untouched this fall. And the walking trails leading to whitetail haunts beyond his woodsy backyard in Ham Lake, Minn., remain untrammeled.

This is not the hunting season of 2004 that Todd Amenrud, 40, was expecting.

On the morning of July 4, Amenrud and his wife, Toni, were finishing up the final touches on a new house deck. They were planning a backyard party for friends and family.

Toni was cleaning the house; daughters Veronica, 4, and Sophia, 18 months, were playing. Todd climbed a ladder to stain the roof of a new gazebo he had built.

"Why didn't you hire the staining job by folks who do that kind of work," Amenrud was asked the other day.

"I liked doing it myself," he replied.

Sometimes in life, simple decisions turn into major moments. "I just slid off the roof," Amenrud explained.

There is no other explanation. No stumble. No tripping. No loss of balance. "I just slid," he said.

In a 20-foot fall, you have a moment to think. As Amenrud was falling feet first, he thought about rolling on impact as he once rolled as a boy jumping from his grandfather's hay barn.

"I guess my 40 year old body couldn't absorb the shock," Amenrud said.

In that major moment, Todd Amenrud's life took a major turn. His left heel was broken. Worse, he fractured his back and damaged his spinal cord. In the hospital, doctors were frank.

"When I went in, I was told not to expect much," he recalled.

Amenrud was mostly paralyzed from the waist down. He has movement in his thighs and he can stand. But he has no movement in his feet or ankles.

"Big life change," Amenrud observed, smiling from the seat in his wheelchair. A big change, indeed.

If you read the archery hunting or deer hunting magazines, the name Todd Amenrud is a familiar one. So is his face, which appeared for years in magazine ads toting a new, "no black mess" method for scent control called ScentKiller, developed for hunters by Wildlife Research, a Minnesota company.

Amenrud's business was, in fact, hunting. He traveled the sport-show circuit giving hunting seminars. He promoted products. He wrote how-to hunting articles for dozens of publications. And … he's still in business.

"Don't count me out. I'm still in the game," he said. "I've made progress. There are tough times, but what's the alternative.

"If I sulk and feel sorry for myself, I'll go nowhere."

His therapy, he admits, is going slow: "I can tell it's going to be a lot of work."

Amenrud said he plans to go hunting yet this fall. He's ordered a new crossbow and the state has issued a permit to use it. He thinks maybe he can still draw his conventional hunting bow.

Daily he works at making his body move.

"Their telling me someday I'll walk with braces. My goal is to walk by New Year's Day. That's my own prognosis," he said, admitting his goal might be too ambitious.

"But there's no question I'll be able to hunt again. If I do, I'll do it from a chair."

Amenrud's office is lined with archery trophies, huge whitetail buck mounts, record antelope and rows of photographs of hunting memories.

"I still love hunting whitetails, but I'm not as mad at 'em as I used to be," he said.


Ron Schara may be reached at ron@mnbound.com.

Schara's 250-page book, "Ron Schara's Minnesota Fishing Guide" (Tristan Outdoors; $19.95) is available by clicking here or by calling 888-755-3155.

October through December 2004, Ron Schara's short feature, "Backroads with Ron & Raven," airs Saturdays on ESPN2 at 7:55 a.m. ET. Click here to view this week's show descriptions.