'Normal, Nothing Else'
Tenacity moving Hunter Baughman closer to dream of fishing professionallyBy Mike Suchan
Published Summer 2014
Hunter Baughman lands a bass on central Arkansas’ Lake Atkins, where he learned to fish with his grandfather. Feeling more enabled than disabled, Baughman has dreams of fishing professionally. (Mike Suchan photo)
ATKINS, Ark. – “Slide it under here; I don’t need no leg room,” said Hunter Baughman, an avid outdoorsman who enjoys seeing the reaction such comments elicit. On a duck hunt, when someone says their feet are cold, he spouts off, “Mine aren’t.”
“I love doing that,” he said. “I used to tell my mom … she’d be talking about something costing money that I wanted. ‘Well, you never bought me shoes all my life, why can’t you buy me that?’”
Busting jokes breaks the ice, make others know he’s comfortable with who he is and that he wants to be treated like everyone else. Baughman might say he’s limb-challenged, but that hasn’t stopped him from doing anything, including aspiring to fish professionally.
Bacterial meningitis at 9 months required amputation of both Baughman’s legs below the knees, his left hand and digits on his right hand. The 27-year-old said he feels blessed to have a right thumb to push the button on his baitcaster and control the line.
His line about leg room came when photographer Seigo Saito was looking to stow his camera box, moments after he and the author boarded Baughman’s BassCat on Day 1 of the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Dardanelle. Baughman, a fixture in central Arkansas fishing derbies, was hired as camera boat driver.
He woke in the wee hours to a 100-mile drive from his home in Judsonia for the 6:15 a.m. launch. He might have taken a little longer than usual, preparing for a day on Dardanelle then a Thursday night bass event in Little Rock, about 80 miles away. He hit the dock in a manual wheelchair around 5:45, watching the 108 pros launch.
Baughman gets after every task in front of him, doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him, just wants to be one of the guys.
“The more you get to know me, I hope you just see me as normal,” he said. “Normal, that’s it, nothing else.”