– Lyrics from "With a Little Help from my Friends" by The Beatles
Donald Gasiewicz Sr. of Varysburg is an amazing individual. Talk to him on the phone and you will find him very personable, a joy to talk to and very informative. At age 65, the Moog employee finally accomplished something this month that he really thought he would never do given a limitation many might find insurmountable. Not that he didn’t try time and time again, but he found that the task at hand – shooting a wild turkey during the spring season – was a very difficult challenge, all the more so for someone who has been completely blind for nearly 40 years due to a car accident.
“I really enjoy being out in nature,” says Gasiewicz, who owns nearly 150 acres of prime hunting land in the Varysburg area. “I have plenty of family and friends who are always willing to take me along and let me share in the outdoor experiences, be it hunting or fishing. If something happens it happens. I like being out in the woods or on the water.”
Gasiewicz grew up in downtown Buffalo but it wasn’t long before he became a country boy. He remembers fishing in places like Lime Lake and Harwood Lake in the Southern Tier. He joined the Boy Scouts of America. He loved being outdoors and it was a perfect foundation for the outdoor attitude and ethics he possesses today.
“I didn’t make it out opening day this year,” Gasiewicz said. “I was having some back issues. But when my neighbor Dave (Bieganski of Harris Corners, Town of Sheldon) called a few days later to see if I was interested, I told him yes. The following day it rained so we decided to go out Saturday morning, May 5.”
Don was up at 4 a.m. and had everything ready to go. Dave picked him up at 5 a.m. and off they went. “Conditions were perfect in the morning,” said Gasiewicz. He had a good feeling that this could be the day.
A hen turkey had been hanging around the house the last couple of days and they decided to go to the birds. The morning began with an owl hoot and they received a response back from a couple resident owls. The turkey responded to the early morning activity. Bieganski used his hollow turkey wing yelper and the turkey lit up again. It was around 7 a.m. and the turkey-chasing duo ran up the hedgerow to try and get into position. Every 15 minutes, Dave would give a call and the tom would respond with a gobble. It was getting exciting for Gasiewicz.
“At 8:10 a.m. Dave did some clucking and immediately got another reaction from the tom, a gobble. I heard Dave whisper ‘The bird is coming straight at us’ as I steadied the gun, listening for instructions on what I should do next. Right, left, up, down as the bird proceeded in a straight line along a tree-line edge, strutting his stuff looking for the elusive hen. On my second ‘Our Father’ … I pulled the trigger.”
The shotgun blast broke the morning silence. The bird dropped immediately to the ground. Gasiewicz had been instructed to hand the gun over to Bieganski in case a second shot was required. He still wasn’t sure, but he found out none was needed when Dave let out a loud whoop. In measuring the distance of the shot, they found the bird to be 47 paces from where they sat concealed.
The size of the bird didn’t matter much to Gasiewicz, although it was a respectable turkey weighing 18.5 pounds, sporting a 9.5-inch beard and showing off just under 1-inch spurs. It took one shot from a 12-gauge Beretta shotgun, loaded with 2 ounces of #4 shot.
“I was Don’s eyes today,” said Bieganski. “Directed by my eyes, I helped point the gun.” The rest was all Gasiewicz. Congratulations are in order.
This is not the first time that he’s pulled off an incredible feat. He also shoots a whitetail deer nearly every big-game hunting season, thanks to his support mechanism of family and friends. Using the eyes of others and the directional instructions on where to point and when to pull the trigger, he’s able to put venison in the freezer on a consistent basis. He’s also a darn good walleye fisherman, too.
There’s a life lesson here we all should take note of. It’s about overcoming challenges and pursuing dreams, no matter what the odds are. It’s about making lemonade out of lemons and making the most of a situation. Gasiewicz is the teacher.
“I was very excited after I shot the turkey,” said Gasiewicz. “I didn’t expect it to happen.”
Of course, he had a little help from his friends.