Local amputee hunter beats odds to bring in six-point buck

By on December 13, 2017

Jeff Fralich poses with a six-point buck he bagged on a recent hunting trip. The double amputee had given up his dream of taking down a buck, until he partnered with Dauphin County-based Pap’s Shed Outdoor Club.

Jeff Fralich thought he would never get his buck.

Bagging a horned whitetail was an accomplishment he had been seeking to fulfill for a lifetime. After the amputation of both his legs, the 64-year old Lititz resident thought the accomplishment merely a dream.

His love of hunting goes back to his childhood, when he and his brother would join their father on deer hunts in Quarryville.

“My dad taught me gun safety. That was before you had to have the hunter’s safety course, which I think is a great idea. He taught me how to hunt. It was good memories with my father. It was great times,” said Fralich. “We had friends down there and we hunted on their farms. But, I was never lucky enough to get a buck.”

He was an avid hunter for over 30 years, but eventually the camp he used closed. Hunting became less of a hobby, but he would still go out looking for that elusive first buck. Then Buerger’s disease set in.

“I am a double leg amputee. I lost both my legs due to a rare blood disease,” said Fralich.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Buerger’s disease causes inflammation in arteries and veins in the arms and legs; blood vessels become inflamed, swell and can become blocked with blood clots. Eventually, blockages and clots destroy skin tissue, which may lead to infection and gangrene.

“I was driving truck for Goods Disposal and I developed pain in my small toe. I just thought it was athlete’s foot,” said Fralich.

He tried several over the counter medications and treatments. Nothing worked and eventually he saw a foot doctor and was diagnosed, incorrectly, with a stress fracture. He lived with the misdiagnosis for three months, but the symptoms did not get any better. He sought out a second opinion and doctors checked the blood flow in his arteries. He was diagnosed with Buerger’s disease.

To combat the ailment, doctors recommended a series of amputations, starting with just the toe and moving up his right leg until the process resulted in eliminating symptoms. After careful consideration, Fralich told doctors to move straight to a leg amputation below his knee.

“It sounds weird when I say this, but it was the best day of my life. It was the first time in a long time when I woke with no pain at all. They had taken care of the problem,” said Fralich. “I lost my leg and it ended my career driving truck, but I thought ‘this is nice being pain free for once.’”

A year later Buerger’s disease developed in his left leg.

“I woke up to pain in the leg one morning and I went to the hospital. They did the blood check and unfortunately this was a little worse than the other one,” said Fralich.

This time, surgery removed his leg above the knee. He gave up on his dream of getting a buck. In a wheelchair, he visited the sportsman’s show in Harrisburg last year to see if there were any opportunities for disabled hunters.

“I really missed it and I wanted to get back into it,” said Fralich.

In Harrisburg he met Kenneth Peck and the volunteers from Dauphin County-based Pap’s Shed Outdoor Club. The club’s sole purpose is to “provide hunting and fishing experiences for children and adults afflicted with life changing illnesses, injuries, and disabilities.” The non-profit club’s focus is within Dauphin, Cumberland, and Perry counties, but they made an acceptation for Fralich.

On Sunday Nove. 5, Fralich got a ride from his friend Charlie Hample to the Clark’s Ferry Bridge in Duncannon and met up with a team from Pap’s Shed. From their they travelled to Tioga County to a spot of land perfect for disabled hunting. Fralich, who said he relies a lot on “great friends” in all aspects of his life now, was aided in the hunt by Hample.

“He basically did everything for me that I couldn’t do,” said Fralich. “They got the deer out and moving [and] the first time I shot, I missed.”

After an adjustment of the scope, Fralich had better aim. He sat 150 yards from his target.

“I squeezed, and it dropped,” said Fralich. “It’s surreal. When I shot the buck, I looked through the scope and couldn’t find the deer.”

Naturally, he thought the six-point buck took off and he missed his opportunity.

“A friend of mine and the people we were hunting with were looking at me like an idiot. It turns out I got the dear and it was down in some tall grass. I didn’t know I had hit it,” said Fralich. “I couldn’t believe it. I had finally gotten my buck.”

More than a month later Fralich said he is “still on cloud eight,” having come down from cloud nine only a bit. At no cost, the club is mounting the buck as a trophy for Fralich’s home, but it will first go on display at The Great American Outdoor Show in February. He also gets the benefit of all the meat from the animal.

“The meat in the freezer is nice. I’ll admit that,” said Fralich. “But the friendship people have showed me by helping me out to get this dream done has just been unbelievable.”

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

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