Hunting isn’t a hobby for Joshua Carney: If anything, it’s a legacy.
He grew up in a family where his father, uncle and grandfather all hunted, passing their love of the sport on to him from an early age.
And nothing was going to stop him from going back when he suffered a nearly life-changing accident in his hometown of Baton Rouge, La.
“So many people go out in the woods with firearms and don’t know the responsibility behind it,” said Carney, who’s on a nationwide speaking tour to emphasize the importance of hunting safety. “If I could change someone’s perspective and make them safer, it’s all worth it to me.”
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Carney, 24, lost the use of his legs at age 13, when his father mistakenly shot him in the spine during a turkey hunt. He remembers his father carrying him out of the field and taking him to the hospital, where he spent three months undergoing several surgeries and treatments.
Carney said he flat-lined twice on the table. His voice adopted a raspy tone after undergoing surgeries that affected his lungs and esophagus, which he says has helped him fine-tune a convincing array of birdcalls and turkey calls.
He left the hospital in a wheelchair and was back out on a rabbit-hunt two weeks later.
Carney has visited 30 states over the past three years in the hope of reaching like-minded hunters. During a publicized appearance at Nichols Store, 1980 Mt Holly Rd. Rock Hill, late Saturday morning he delivered a message that resonated with Jordan Nichols, a longtime sales associate at the shop.
“He’s something else,” said Nichols, an avid hunter. “He’s inspiring to everybody, not only disabled people, but for youth in general.”
A proud, old Southern boy at heart, Carney bills himself as “Son of the South” or “The Original Natural Caller” on his speaking tours, and loves to show off his repertoire of animal calls, which he can use to identify and attract turkeys, geese, elk and several other species.
He uses a specially-modified wheelchair to comfortably hunt without scaring off the target. His favorite target is the white-tailed deer, which he said presents a unique challenge due to the evasive skills of the prey.
And even when he’s not out in the woods, he enjoys speaking to crowds, introducing kids to the outdoors, teaching archery and promoting the sport of hunting. Every hunt is precious for Carney, who said he’s developed a keen respect for the sport.
“It’s what I love,” said Carney. “I want to continue doing what I love.”
To view a SC Department of Natural Resources video on hunter education go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dG20G6Y4UB8