GALLUP, N.M. – After the tragic accident in 2004, Mike Sanders never thought he would be able to do the things he loved.
Burned over 80 percent of his body, blinded in both eyes, without a left hand and hospitalized for over a year-and-a half following an area fire and explosion, his life seemed to him to be over.
But now, thanks to the support from his closest friends and his own personal perseverance, he recently did something that he never thought he would do again.
On Aug. 1, Sanders shot an antelope while on his first hunting trip since the accident.
"I thought that I was going to lay around the house and never do anything again," Sanders said.
Sanders, who lives in Jamestown, was an avid hunter before he was disabled. He said he was recently encouraged by a friend to try hunting again.
With the help of special equipment, it was made possible. Mike Sanders, along with his wife, Michelle, and his friend, Joe Chepin, made the trip to the Double H Ranch near Datil and Magdalena. About 10 miles east of the ranch, the group spotted a group of antelope. After two missed shots, he hit one from about 200 yards away with a .308 caliber rifle.
"I loved it," he said.
"I think it's great," Chepin said. "For a blind man to do something like that is great."
Using special equipment attached to the rifle, Chepin and Michelle helped Mike line up the shot.
"I think it was amazing," Michelle said. "I never thought he would ever be able to hunt again, or even handle a firearm."
Michelle said the hunt was her first time hunting. She said that at first it seemed frightening that her husband would want to try hunting again.
"It is kind of scary because it is a blind person, but he has it in his head that he knows what he is doing," she said.
Mike said that reloading is one of the hardest parts since he has only one hand.
He was ambidextrous before the accident and was used to using his left hand more than his right before he lost the hand. But he said it was easy getting used to using his right hand and he now uses it to pull the trigger.
The only other challenge was taking aim, Sanders said.
"I didn't know what I was pointing at, so you got to learn to trust other people," he said. "They are my eyes."
Mike said he plans to keep hunting and is planning on going on a muzzle loader hunt for elk on Mount Taylor in early October. Later in the month he will go on a deer rifle hunt.
"I intend to keep on hunting from this point on," he said.
The main message Mike would like to relay to people is that no matter how bad a situation is, there is technology out there to help you do the things you love.
"With good friends, and support, you don't have to give up on your ambitions," he said. "I hope that I can be an inspiration to people who think their life is over because of a catastrophic injury.
"There is equipment out there. It is a little harder to do things, but it is still possible."
The Sanders family has posted the antelope shoot on YouTube for public viewing.