By Joe Kriz
The sun is up but it is still a bitter December morning in the perched stand overlooking a corn feeder on Friday Ranch in San Saba, Texas. A Washington state native, Scott Smiley didn’t know it got this cold in the Lone Star State. Over the next few hours, Smiley follows and passes up a doe and four-by-zero that had shed one of its antlers. Not a betting man, Smiley tells himself he will take the next hungry visitor to the feeder and sets his sight on a young six-point buck . . .
Calm, cool and collected like he had learned in the Army, Smiley lines up his shot and pulls the trigger of his borrowed .308 rifle—bang! If it were not for the others in the stand with him, Smiley never would have known his shot had found its target.
After all, Maj. Scott Smiley is blind.
While serving in Iraq on April 6, 2005, Scott Smiley’s life changed forever when a car bomb detonated near his Stryker vehicle. Shrapnel from the blast took a direct path to his head, shredding his left retina and severing the optical nerves on the right side of his face. His life spared, Smiley has lived in a state of forever black ever since.
“There are things most humans believe are impossible—that can’t be done—once your sight is taken away,” Smiley said, referencing the hunt. “It’s an amazing accomplishment.”
Despite his blindness, Smiley has continued to make the seemingly impossible, possible. On top of being a husband and father to three young boys, he has gone on to earn a Master’s Degree from Duke University, complete a 16-hour Ironman Triathlon, surf the waves of Hawaii and write an autobiography. He is also the Army’s first blind active-duty officer.
Yet, when approached by Texas Hunters for Heroes President Sterling Bradshaw and board member Buck McLamb about going on a deer hunt, Smiley was hesitant.
“There was a moment of silence, and then he turned to me and asked ‘How in the world can this happen,’” recalled Bradshaw.
It was McLamb who then told Smiley about the X-Sight, a gift from his father, explaining how the riflescope worked and how they could use it on their hunt.
Introduced to the market in 2014, the X-Sight was the first Smart HD optic developed by ATN, a digital day and night riflescope with built-in video recording, GPS, geotagging and night vision. The optic can also be paired with a smartphone or tablet via Wi-Fi as a mobile viewfinder using the ATN Obsidian mobile app. Once connected, users can see exactly what the optic is seeing, change settings remotely and view previously recorded videos. With McLamb acting as his spotter, it was this feature that they would utilize to get Smiley his first deer.
In the stand, McLamb used his phone to track the X-Sight reticle, giving Smiley fine rifle adjustments on his leg with his hand until they had the perfect shot lined up.
“Once he tapped my knee, I shot,” Smiley said. “It was straight through the top of its heart and lung.”
Perfect for hunting with friends or teaching others how to shoot, the viewfinder capability of the X-Sight has also opened doors once thought to be closed for disabled and impaired shooters like Smiley, who has since purchased an X-Sight to mount on his new Remington® rifle.
Bradshaw remembers an email he received from Smiley after the hunt around Christmas.
“He was so proud to be buying a rifle, and the looks he got were priceless,” Bradshaw said.
“Now with the ATN X-Sight and my rifle, it gives me a freedom I never thought I could have,” said Smiley. “I can still shoot and have a great time enjoying the outdoors with my boys; I just need a partner.”
Smiley is grateful to Texas Hunters for Heroes for the eye-opening experience and has already made plans for future hunts with the organization.
“To be asked by men [to go hunting] that I don’t even know was amazing. I really appreciate what they do for the men and women who come back and are still struggling; to enable them to get back outside and continue to fight the good fight,” Smiley said.
Texas Hunters for Heroes is a chapter of North American Hunters for Heroes, a non-profit organization dedicated to giving back to wounded veterans and military heroes that have served in combat through the great outdoors. For more information or to volunteer, visit texashuntersforheroes.org.
To learn about ATN Smart HD optics and the new ATN X-Sight II, please visit atncorp.com.