Outdoor Corner: Thad Bellow honored for volunteer service

Lyle Johnson

The first time I saw Thad Bellow was at an East Ascension Sportsman’s League Bass Fishing tournament. That was a long time ago. What drew my attention to him was that he was in a wheelchair being lowered into a bass boat with a winch of sorts.

Thad Bellow loves hunting. He took this 160-pound, eight-point buck in 2018 at his hunting camp in Sorrento with a 7mm-08 rifle at 140 yards.

I asked somebody who that was and just what was he doing? I got my answer. “That there is Thad Bellow. He’s wheelchair bound but his van is designed for him to drive himself around. That’s his boat, and he runs it all the time." “Wow,” was all I could think.

It would be a few years later before I met him and became friends for life with a pretty remarkable fellow.

Bellow became a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries volunteer Hunter Education Instructor for nearly 20 years ago in Ascension Parish. This service earned him the Todd Roberts Achievement Award winner for 2020-2021. Bellow was recognized by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission during its July 1 meeting in Baton Rouge.

Thad Bellow (center) accepts the Todd Roberts Achievement Award from LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet (left), LDWF Biologist Educator Supervisor Brad Jackson (center standing) and Hunter Education Program Manager Eric Shanks (right)

“Thad is an inspiration and can serve as a great example of determination and passion not just to volunteer instructors, but to all of us,’’ said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. “For his long-time and significant contributions to LDWF, his hunting community and the sportsmen of Louisiana, I am so pleased to recognize him for the Todd Roberts Achievement Award.’’

Bellows has been the lead instructor for the Ascension Parish Hunter Ed teaching team and has taught more than 100 Hunter Education classes, training 5,000 students and volunteering more than 1,200 hours of his time.

The Todd Roberts Achievement Award recognizes a volunteer instructor who has made significant and outstanding contributions to the LDWF State Hunter Education Program over a period of years. It is given out annually by the Hunter Education Program to a single volunteer instructor out of roughly 1,000 active instructors.

In Thad Bellow style, he had this to say about his award. “I’d like to thank my wife, Chari, for doing all the computer work for me, and this would not have been possible without the help of the other Hunter Education Instructors that teach with me; Geno Gordon, Ryan Schilling, Jo Ann Hullum and Randy McCoy. This is a team effort.”

Bellow's volunteer lifestyle started off a long time ago as one of the first first-responders for the St Amant Volunteer Fire Department. In 1993 Thad was involved in a one-car accident. He was ejected from his vehicle which left him paralyzed from the waist down.

This probably would have discouraged most folks from attempting to participate in somewhat of a normal life, but not Bellow. He continued with the St Amant FD in a supporting role and in 1995 joined the East Ascension Sportsman’s League where he served as the newspaper editor along with a couple of stints as the president.

Most of his volunteer work included the youth of our community. 2007 was the year that his involvement with the Ascension Parish 4-H shooting team began, providing coaching, instruction and support for the shooting sports community here in Ascension Parish.

In usual fashion, Thad started off just volunteering but soon became the shotgun instructor followed by archery. He then became the club coordinator and recently became a Level II shotgun instructor.

For the first time in history the Louisiana 4-H Shooting Sports team took home the top prize at the 2019 National Shooting Sports Championships in Grand Island, Neb., held June 23-28. Ascension’s team had two members compete; Justin Schexnaydre in the shotgun division along with Sean Turner in archery.

This event was cancelled in 2020 but it happened again on June 20-25 at the Heartland Public Shooting Park in Grand Island. The Louisiana team won it all again in back to back style with two more competitors from Ascension; Corrie Savoy in the air rifle division and Aiden Cole in the small bore rifle division.

Bellow also served as the National Wild Turkey Federations Jake chairman. This role helps youth get trained in gun safety as well as hunting skills. He served as chairman of the Greenwing division of Duck’s Unlimited, mentoring the youth of our community there as well.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Bellow started his own business with Fins to Feathers Taxidermy 28 years ago. He’s built up quite a reputation helping create lifetime memories for hunters in his mounting skills. Oh yeah, he plays and sings in a band, Dis N Dat Band.

The family has endured other challenges in life. Bellows and his wife, Chari, were blessed with their only child, Kayla in 1990. She was diagnosed with Aicardi syndrome at birth which caused seizures for her every day. Aicardi syndrome is a disorder that occurs almost exclusively in females. Kayla passed away in 2008 at the age of 18. Her doctors told the family they were very fortunate to have her that long.

At 55 years old, Bellows has no intentions of stopping serving our community. I asked the question and he replied in Thad style, “Nah, I’m still teaching Hunter’s Ed and working with the 4H Shooting club.” His wife added, “The only thing changing is I might have to get him bigger hats as his head is swelling a bit with all this publicity!”

When I’m around Thad Bellow, sometimes I feel like I’m the one who is handicapped. I’m proud to know him and have him as a friend. Well done my friend. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!

Outdoor Calendar

  • Tuesday Evening Bass Tournament, St James Boat Club; Fishers of men tournament trail will be hosting. Through August, with a Classic. 5 p.m. until dark. All info on Facebook Tuesday evening Blind River bass.
  • Red snapper season: Open for Friday-through-Sunday seasons.
  • CCA Statewide Anglers’ Rodeo: Through Sept. 6. CCA Louisiana saltwater rodeo with divisions & numerous categories. Must be CCA member. Website: www.ccalouisiana.com
  • Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo: July 22—24, Pavilion at the end of Tarpon Rodeo Drive. All info at tarponrodeo.org, email to info@tarponrodeo.org or call Heather Martin at 985-306-0535.
  • East Ascension Sportsman’s League Kid’s Fishing Rodeo; Oct 31 a Twin Lakes Park in Dutchtown. Registration from 6 to 7 a.m., with fishing from 7 until 9 a.m. Awards, prizes and food after fishing. For more information, contact Bettye Lambert (225) 571-4588.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net