BY TRACY BREEN
Archery is one sport that almost anyone can participate in. That’s one of the things that makes archery so special. It doesn’t matter if someone is tall, short, heavy, thin, fast, slow, disabled, or a first class athlete. Chances are with a little hard work and determination, anyone can be a first class archer.
One example is Kenny Fritzell from Wisconsin. Kenny was born with a disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT). This disease affects the nerves and makes participating in regular sports like football or baseball difficult because it decreases a person’s balance and strength in their hands and legs. John Fritzell, Kenny’s dad, also has the disease and knows how challenging the disease is. “I knew participating in regular sports would be tough for Kenny. Archery, on the other hand, was something he could do. He started shooting a bow when he was seven while he was at a Boy Scout Camp. He liked it a lot so I decided to get him a bow,” John Fritzell explained.
The Fritzell family headed to Old 45 Archery in Hortonville, Wisconsin and met Jeanette Baerwald. “At first, Kenny shot a Genesis bow. Eventually, Jeanette sold us a Mission Menace and Kenny started participating in the kid leagues at Old 45 Archery. Jeanette worked hard to help Kenny excel at archery. Over time, Kenny started shooting quite well,” John said.
Jeanette Baerwald from Old 45 Archery spends a lot of time introducing kids to archery and noticed from the moment Kenny walked into the shop that he was confident, eager to learn, and willing to work hard. “Kenny has some special challenges but he overcomes them. I have been working with him for several years now. It has been a joy to watch him gain confidence in the sport of archery,” Baerwald said.
Today’s high-tech bows like the Mission Menace that have high let-off made archery easier for Kenny. Pair that with a wrist strap release and Kenny was able to shoot. “When I was a child, I couldn’t use a regular bow. I had to use a crossbow but the Menace and a release have made it possible for Kenny to shoot a regular bow which has been exciting to watch,” Fritzell said. The sport of archery requires eye-hand coordination, balance and the ability to steady yourself. These things are difficult to do when you have CMT. However, during recent years, Kenny has been determined, has worked hard and has persevered. “Kenny is now bringing his friends into the shop. He teaches them how to shoot a bow which has been fun to observe,” Baerwald noted.
During recent years, Kenny has honed his archery skills and even got the highest score at one of the 3D league shoots that takes place at Old 45 Archery even though he is one of the youngest to participate in his age class. With Kenny’s skill level increasing, his dad started to turn his attention towards hunting. “I grew up in a family who did a lot of outdoor activities including hunting. When Kenny started shooting well, I started to think that maybe he could actually bowhunt,” Fritzell added.
In the fall of 2011, at age 10, Kenny was shooting 32 pounds. He and his dad decided it was time for Kenny to go deer hunting. Sitting still for hours in a pop-up blind is difficult for any of us. It is especially difficult for kids and even more difficult for Kenny because of CMT. However, Kenny like always, was determined to achieve a goal. Becoming a successful deer hunter was the goal. Kenny practiced from a pop-up blind and from a sitting position so when it came time to enter the woods, he was ready.
Anyone who has a disability understands that getting into the woods, getting positioned and ready to hunt is often more of a challenge than the hunting itself. That’s the case for Kenny and his dad. “From getting our boots on to getting into the woods, everything takes longer for us than it does the average person. However, we plan for it and get up extra early so we can make it into the woods on time. I use a hiking stick so I don’t fall as much but we both fall down every once in a while,” Fritzell added.
On November 12, the Fritzell boys headed into the Wisconsin woods armed with a Mission Bow and an extra large dose of patience. “We arrived early in the morning. We stayed out until around noon and then left the woods for a little while,” Kenny recalled. “We went back into the woods at 2:30 p.m. and didn’t see a deer until 4:15 p.m. So, we had to wait awhile,” At 4:45, Kenny was able to shoot a doe. “The doe was probably 12-15 yards away when I shot. I was shaking but I made a good shot. The doe only went 75 yards.” At the age of 10, with his dad at his side, Kenny was able to take his first deer. The road that led to this hunt was not an easy one. It required hard work and determination. However, these are two things that Kenny is not lacking.
For Kenny’s dad, the memory of the hunt will last a lifetime. “If I talk about how proud of him I am, I get choked up. I wasn’t able to shoot a conventional bow when I was a kid so Kenny did something I was never able to. I am very proud of him for that,” Fritzell said.
When asked what his favorite thing to do was, Kenny replied, “Shoot my bow.” I have no doubt that soon when he is asked that question, he will respond with “Killing big bucks.” Kenny has the mental toughness and the skill required to be a big buck hunter.
One of the greatest things about archery is that it often has a positive impact an anyone who tries it. In many cases, it has a positive impact on the entire family. There is no doubt that archery has changed the lives of the Fritzell family in a positive way. Watching Kenny overcome what life has dealt him to pursue archery and admiring his strong will has had a positive impact on the crew at Old 45 Archery, myself and likely anyone who reads this article. Archery is an amazing sport. Kenny Fritzell is just as amazing!