As crossbows get more popular, Alaska requires specialized training for hunters

  • Sam Friedman
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As used by hunters, a crossbow is somewhere between a gun and a bow. It has a learning curve more like a gun and a range more like archery equipment. Crossbows are still relatively novel weapons. More than moose hunts, they may bring to mind images of medieval re-enactors or Chewbacca from the “Star Wars” movies.

But they’ve become common enough that Alaska’s Board of Game has asked the state to develop a training class for them. Starting July 1, crossbow hunters will be required to take a class and pass a field shooting exercise to hunt big game animals anywhere in the state.

To learn more about crossbows, I asked crossbow hunter and occasional Daily News-Miner contributor Jeff Bushke to show me the basics. Bushke has been crossbow hunting for more than a decade and set up a practice range against a snow berm in his front yard.

Bushke got interested in crossbows when he was working at the Fairbanks Sportsman’s Warehouse store soon after it opened.

“That opened my eyes to a lot of things,” he said. “When you work at a sporting goods store, you’ve got to play.”

His crossbow, a TenPoint brand Pro Fusion model, is 10 years old and shoots at 300 feet per second.

“It’s not that fast by today’s standards,” he said. “But it’s killed four moose and four bears and has punched a lot of holes in targets.”

Alaska doesn’t allow crossbows in special “archery only” hunts except for hunters who have medical exemptions. Bushke has an exemption for a shoulder injury, so he can take his crossbow on archery hunts. But he sometimes takes it on general hunts where he could use a rifle. In particular, he likes taking the crossbow to his bear bait station.

“It’s a great tool for killing bears,” he said. “If you shoot a bear with it they think they’ve got stung by a bee. They don’t think they’re dead.”

Many crossbows have mechanical aids to help cock them. Bushke’s uses a detachable crank on the stock that turns easily to slowly bring the string back toward the trigger mechanism. After pulling back the string, Bushke loaded the crossbow with a bolt, the term for the short arrows used for crossbows.

Unlike a bow, you don’t have to hold the tension in a crossbow while waiting to fire. After it’s been cocked, the crossbow is ready to fire and just needs a trigger pull to release.

Bushke gave me the most important piece of advice when I got ready to fire: Be careful with hand placement on the crossbow foregrip. Grab it too high, and you’ve put your fingers into the path of the string.

“It’s a mistake you would only make once,” he told me.

Firing the crossbow otherwise feels much like shooting a rifle. I can see why it would be easier to learn to shoot accurately with a crossbow than an actual bow. My first shots all went high and to the right, but a fourth shot landed close to the middle of the target.

It’s easy to be fooled by the weapon’s accuracy at close range and assume it can kill a distant moose. Ginamaria Smith, who coordinates Alaska’s hunter education program, said this is the biggest misconception she’s run into with crossbows. That’s a problem, because people who attempt distance shots with crossbows are likely to wound animals instead of killing them. 

The North American Crossbow Association trade group warns that popular videos of long range crossbow shots have fueled misconceptions about a crossbow’s true range.

“The effective and ethical range for a crossbow is at 50 yards or less,” the group states on its website. “While it is neat to see the 100-yard trick shots, they should never be attempted during any live hunting situation.”

So far about 70 people in Alaska have signed up for crossbow education. The first field tests — on April 15 in Anchorage and on May 16 in Fairbanks — are filling up fast, Smith said.

In the field test, hunters will shoot twice at four 3-D targets at distances they’re likely to encounter in the field. They’ll need to make a kill shot on each target and a double kill on one target.


Tigers’ Travis Wood almost lost his finger in a hunting accident

Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

When Travis Wood arrived at spring training camp Tuesday with a splint on his finger, it caused a few eyebrows to rise. The lefty pitcher was signed to a minor league deal by the Tigers in late January and is a non-roster invitee to the spring camp. A pitcher showing up with his hand in a splint is usually a pretty bad sign.

Turns out the story Wood had to go along with the splint is even more incredible. About a month prior to spring training, Wood was preparing to go bow hunting, when a mishap with the crossbow he was using nearly caused the index finger on his non-pitching hand to be cut off.

Wood, who knew spring training was fast approaching and was hoping to fight for a spot on the Tigers Opening Day roster, had the most insane and badass response to the injury.

Tigers non-roster invite Travis Wood has a pin in right index finger after a bow hunting accident. He said he asked doctor if chopping finger would get him back to pitching sooner. Fortunately, he’s left-handed. He’s throwing in camp but not catching yet.

Yes. He actually asked his doctor if amputation would be a faster route back to pitching. Sure, that’s crazy, but talk about being devoted to the sport.

Since the injury is to his right hand, and Wood is a lefty, he will still be participating in spring training workouts and will, presumably, continue to pitch through spring. His dedication may pay off with a place on the 40-man roster if he has a good camp.

New Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire had a sense of humor about the injury.

“He’s got a split-finger now,” Ron Gardenhire said of Travis Wood.

Man arrested for illegally hunting in Staten Island

Thursday, October 12, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Police Department says they’ve arrested an upstate New York man who was illegally hunting in a Staten Island park.

The 28-year-old hunter was spotted sitting near a tree holding a crossbow by an off-duty police officer who was out for a walk. The officer called for backup after the man acknowledged he was hunting deer, and the hunter was arrested Tuesday night.

It is illegal to hunt in all five boroughs of New York City.

The Norfolk man was charged with criminal possession of a weapon and prohibited use of a weapon.

He was released on his own recognizance and has another court date scheduled for Dec. 15.

Alberta not likely to follow through with spear hunt ban until fall 2018

‘The legislation would refer to firearms and archery equipment as the only permitted weapons to be used.’

The Canadian Press Posted: Sep 21, 2017

Alberta does not expect to make good on a promise to ban what it has called the archaic practice of spear-hunting until at least next fall as it considers rule changes that could include prohibiting other methods of taking big game.

The government made the pledge in August 2016 after an online video surfaced showing an American hunter throwing a spear at a black bear in northern Alberta and then cheering to celebrate his kill.

People around the world reacted angrily to the video. Some called the use of a spear barbaric.

Matt Besko, director of wildlife policy for Alberta Environment, said the province is looking at updating regulations that already spell out rules for standard hunting weapons such as firearms and bows, but say nothing about other methods.

“It is not just about spears,” Besko said. “When we looked at our legislation, there are other potential inhumane or unethical methods that could be used.

“The legislation would refer to firearms and archery equipment as the only permitted weapons to be used to harvest game species in Alberta. All other methods would be prohibited.”

Some other non-standard hunting methods include the atlatl, a kind of stick a hunter can use to throw a dart or a short spear at prey.

Using rocks to kill game or running an animal to the point of exhaustion or death could be prohibited under changes.

Besko said Alberta began surveying the public about non-standard hunting methods in 2014.

‘Very small’ segment of hunting community

There was already opposition to the use of spears before the government received a storm of angry letters, emails and social media comments about the 2016 bear video.

“The large majority of respondents to that survey disagreed with the use of those so-called non-standard weapons, including spears,” he said.

“There is a segment of the hunting community — and it is a very small component — that actually use spears and atlatls.”

The government has been getting some pushback.

Earlier this year, the Alberta Fish and Game Association approved a motion that called on the province to maintain legal spear and atlatl hunting.

Martin Sharren, the association’s vice-president, said there aren’t a lot of people who use spears, but the organization is wary of hunting restrictions.

“It is another hunting opportunity that if it gets taken away, it gets taken away,” he said.

Brent Watson, president of the Alberta Bowhunters Association, said his members have different views on spear-hunting and clear rules are needed to ensure that animals are hunted humanely.

Besko said no final decisions have been made and the government could include hunting rule changes as part of a broader update to Alberta’s Wildlife Act.

Draft proposals are to be presented to the government within a year.

“The earliest that a decision could be made would be for the fall of 2018 and that is if all things would align in terms of the external review process.”

Josh Bowmar, the hunter who killed the bear with the spear, was not charged after the province determined that he had legally harvested the animal.

New wheelchair provides opportunities for quadriplegic hunter

Nels Hadden may not be able to move his arms or legs, but he can still take down a deer with a crossbow.

There’s no magic spell or use of the Force, just the power of technology that lets quadriplegic men and women do things that would have been impossible years ago.

Hadden was paralyzed from the neck down in 2009, when he stopped to help at the scene of a crash on Interstate 84 and was struck by another car that slid out of control on the ice. He lived in Milton-Freewater at the time and has since moved to Walla Walla.

On Tuesday the nonprofit Independence Fund gifted Hadden an upgraded wheelchair with 16-inch pneumatic wheels and four wheel drive that will allow him to roll across uneven terrain. He can’t wait to use it to hit the beach for the first time in more than eight years.

“This is going to give some of those things back that were taken away from me,” he said.

Hadden has always been able to move about and control a cell phone using puffs and sips of air into a straw near his mouth, but his other chairs have always been designed for flat, even surfaces.

One of the biggest things the all-terrain chair will help with is hunting. Hadden was an avid hunter before the accident, and still is today. He may not be able to hug his children or lift a spoon to his mouth, but a Walla Walla man named Gary Parson helped him obtain a contraption that mounts a rifle, shotgun or crossbow on his wheelchair and allows him to sight it and pull the trigger using puffs of air from his mouth.

He has been hunting in the years since, and has a few sets of antlers at home to show for it. In the past, he has had to more or less park his wheelchair in one spot and hope the right animal wandered past. Now he’ll be able to move through the forest with other hunters in a manner more reminiscent of when he was a younger.

“I grew up in Pilot Rock and my family, that’s just something that we did,” he said. “It’s not just about taking an animal, it’s about getting together and joking and laughing.”

Even when he was stuck sitting in a blind not too far from the wheelchair-accessible van, Hadden has had some adventures. One night he and his nurse Miranda Amwoka were sitting in the blind when a mama bear and her two cubs walked by. The mama bear came up against the side of the blind, stuck her head in and looked right in at the two of them. Since Hadden was strapped to a wheelchair and Amwoka didn’t have a weapon, it was a pretty scary experience for both of them.

Nels’ wife Betsy said he has more Twitter followers than anyone in the family after he gathered a fan club of hunters and hunting companies interested in his exploits. A couple of them even sent free game cameras for him to review. He has more than 40,000 game camera photos saved on his computer.

Betsy was the one who found out about the Independence Fund, a nonprofit that gives all-terrain wheelchairs and other tools to veterans injured in combat so that they can resume more of the outdoor activities they enjoyed before their injuries. Hadden wasn’t injured in combat, but he is a veteran who served nine years active duty and he was injured while acting as a Good Samaritan, so Betsy convinced him to take a shot at applying anyway. He received a letter saying that usually he would not be eligible, but there was a veteran in the area who had recently given one back because he only got to use it a couple of times before he fell too ill. The group was willing to give Hadden the used chair for free.

It wasn’t a simple matter of moving the chair from one part of Oregon to another. Each chair for a quadriplegic user must fit them “like a glove” in order to avoid pressure sores, and Hadden has even more needs because of the extent of the injuries he suffered during the accident. The chair was sent to a factory where it was customized to Hadden’s measurements and needs, but when Pete Hedberg of Pacific Healthcare Associates delivered it on Tuesday it still took an hour and a half of small adjustments before Hadden was lifted into it using a sling attached to an apparatus on the ceiling. Then it was another hour of adjustments aided by a tape measure to make sure his arms were resting at equal height.

“It takes longer than normal to sit him because he had so many bones broken,” Betsy said.

Still, Hadden was excited about the long-awaited chair, which resembles a shiny red miniature ATV on the bottom.

“Wow, she’s purdy,” he drawled as he laid eyes on the chair. “Pretty fancy.”

He commented on the lights and turn signals on the chair, joking, “Wal-Mart, here we come!”

Hadden doesn’t know the exact value of his new chair, but he does know that the less-fancy one he has been using cost $40,000. Buying a new wheelchair would have cost him more than buying a new car, he said. He can’t even begin to express how grateful he is to receive one for free.

“You rely on it every day because without it you’re in bed,” he said. “It’s basically like an arm or a leg.”

For more information about the Independence Fund, visit

4 arrested, 50+ guns seized in illegal-hunting probe

Four men were arrested and more than 50 guns seized in an ongoing investigation of illegal hunting, police said Wednesday.

Anonymous tips months ago began the investigation, focused on illegal hunting by people prohibited from possessing deadly weapons, said Cpl. John McDerby of the state Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police.

More than 250 pounds of venison, seven crossbows and many deer racks and mounts also were seized in the investigation, which was focused in New Castle County, McDerby said.

Those arrested were identified as Michael E. Dewey, 53, and Christopher A. Griffin, 24, both of Wilmington, Jeffrey D. Callahan, 53, of Newark, and Gary L. Grose, 50, of Townsend.

All were charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, an offense McDerby said could carry substantial prison time.

Because the investigation is continuing, McDerby said he could not release details of the case, including where and when the arrests were made.

Police did not disclose what past offenses led to all four being prohibited from possessing guns and ammunition.

But McDerby said that state law bans those with prior felony convictions, misdemeanor convictions associated with violent crimes, drug convictions, mental conditions as defined under the law or court-issued protection from abuse orders from having deadly weapons and ammunition.

“This prohibition means they cannot be in possession of hunting weapons, including bows or crossbows, shotguns, muzzleloaders or any deadly weapon or ammunition used for hunting,” he said.

Each of those arrested faces a variety of other charges.

Dewey also was charged with six counts of possessing illegally taken antlerless deer, six counts of possessing illegally taken antlered deer and one count of possessing unlawfully taken game. He was released on $10,500 unsecured bail.

Eight firearms and ammunition, one crossbow and about 50 pounds of venison were seized as evidence against Dewey, along with a variety of antlered deer mounts and racks, and one mounted duck, McDerby said.

Griffin was charged with six counts of possessing illegally taken antlerless deer, four counts of possessing illegally taken antlered deer, three counts of failure to tag antlered deer, two counts of possessing unlawfully taken game birds, two counts of failure to tag antlerless deer, two counts of posessing unlawfully taken game birds and unlawful use of a quality buck tag. He was released on $4,500 unsecured bail.

Thirty-six firearms and ammunition were seized as evidence against Griffin, McDerby said. Also seized were four crossbows and about 100 pounds of venison and duck meat, along with a variety of antlered deer mounts and racks, he said.

Callahan also was charged with eight counts of possessing illegally taken antlerless deer, four counts of possessing illegally taken antlered deer, marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia possession. He was released on $3,750 unsecured bail.

Four firearms and ammunition, a crossbow, about 100 pounds of venison, a variety of antlered deer mounts and racks, about 11.1 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia were seized as evidence against Callahan, McDerby said.

Grose was charged with two counts of possessing illegally taken antlerless deer, marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia possession. He was released on $5,500 unsecured bail.

Two firearms and ammunition, a crossbow and compound bow, about 15 pounds of venison, a variety of antlered deer mounts and racks, about 7.5 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia were seized as evidence against Grose, McDerby said.

Although McDerby declined to give details about the tips that started the investigation, he said, “we’re always happy to get tips like that.”

He said illegal hunting may be reported to Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police at (302) 739-4580 or to Operation Game Theft at (800) 292-3030

cartoon-trophy-hunt. bizzarodotcom

New law allows crossbow hunting, but not on LI

April 1, 2014 7:32 PM

John Hargreaves, an archer from Farmingville, practices his

Bow hunters on Long Island will be allowed closer to homes — though not with crossbows — under terms of a new law included in the state budget package.

Bow hunters won’t be able to shoot within 150 feet of buildings, a reduction from the 500 feet that had been on the books, state officials said Tuesday.

The new law gives hunters access to more land, lawmakers and hunters said, and could help to reduce a deer herd that Eastern Long Island residents said has grown too large.


“It opens up a lot of areas to hunting that can’t be hunted now,” said Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor). “That’s what my local governments and people were telling me they wanted.”

Property owners must give hunters permission to be on their land.

Wildlife advocates said the change was bad for both deer and humans. “It’s cruel for the deer and dangerous for humans,” said Bill Crain, president of East Hampton Group for Wildlife. He said bow hunting can lead to slow deaths for deer.

“A hundred and fifty feet — that’s awfully close. You could be in somebody’s yard where children are playing,” Crain said.

Hunters and local officials have advocated for easing hunting restrictions to help deal with the herd of 25,000 to 35,000 deer in Suffolk. The population has grown so large that the Long Island Farm Bureau entered into a controversial agreement with sharpshooters from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to cull deer in late February.

Cuomo’s proposed budget that he originally submitted included easing the distance restrictions, as well as allowing for crossbows to be used in hunts — which elderly and disabled hunters had sought.

The eventual budget bill allows crossbows to be used upstate, but not in Suffolk or Westchester counties. Deer hunting is not allowed in Nassau County. Thiele said the crossbows weren’t a focus of his efforts, and faced some opposition on Long Island.

Some hunters were disappointed that crossbow hunting won’t be allowed on Long Island.

John Blanco, 68, of Manorville, said he has been too weak to pull back a bow since he began fighting cancer in 1997.

“If you let the senior citizens or disabled people get crossbows,” Blanco said, “there’d be no need for the culling they have going on.”

Crossbows can be easier to cock than bows, which can require more upper body strength.

Allowing crossbows and easing the setback restrictions were recommended in the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Deer Management Plan, released in 2011.

“Archery shots taken at deer are typically discharged either on a horizontal plane or on a downward trajectory,” according to the report.”In these situations, an arrow travels only a short distance before either hitting the target or dropping to the ground.”

In the past 10 years, the report said, “the only reported injuries in New York State related to handling or discharge of bow-hunting equipment were 2 self-inflicted cuts from careless handling of arrows.” The 500 foot restriction on firearm hunting, which is only allowed during limited times in January in Suffolk, are unchanged.

Thiele had introduced a similar bill last year, but the bill did not make it out of the Environmental Conservation Committee, which is chaired by Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst).

“I’m comfortable,” Sweeney said Tuesday. “One hundred and fifty feet is more than adequate to keep people safe.”

Stop the Crossbow Insanity in New York

This action alert from IDA answers to an disallowed comment from someone claiming to have “…a natural areas management background” (who must not have read this blogs “About” page wherein it is stated that pro-hunting comments will not be approved), “We also cull many deer here. But, we don’t make big anouncements about it. They cause many car related accidents and this is really the only way to handle them. The upside is the meat doesn’t go to waste, but to a food kitchen.” (I’m sure the deer appreciate knowing that.)

(Valid address is required – P.O. Boxes cannot be used)

In Defense of Animals

Oppose Legalizing Crossbows and Changing the Minimum Distance Requirement for Killing Wildlife from Occupied Dwellings

What’s next… throwing spears out of car windows to kill wildlife for fun?

We need your help to stop a proposal in New York that would legalize the use of crossbows. For bow hunting, it would also lower the current 500 foot minimum shooting distance from a home or occupied structure down to the outrageously dangerous distance of only 150 feet in order to further accommodate bow hunters.

There is a notable trend in relaxing crossbow hunting regulations across the nation, mainly in an effort to stem declining hunter numbers, by increasing hunting opportunities.

A current example is New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, who wants to legalize hunting with crossbows to kill deer and bears, and allow the use of crossbows just 150 feet from homes and other buildings.

Crossbows are short-range, lethal weapons from which the projectile is released by squeezing a trigger, rather than by manually releasing the string as with a longbow. They are essentially guns that shoot powerful arrows and weapons which appeal to inexperienced hunters.

What you can do:Send the letter below to the leaders of the New York Assembly and the Senate and Governor Cuomo and request that they amend Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget bill by deleting section I.

Personalize and submit the form below to email your comments to:

  • Governor Andrew Cuomo
  • Senator Dean Skelos
  • Senator Jeffrey Klein
  • Speaker Sheldon Silver

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*First Name:

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No Crossbow Hunting and No Bow Hunting Distance Reductions

Dear [Decision Maker],

*Personalize your message

As a supporter of In Defense of Animals (IDA) and an avid advocate for wildlife, and the safety of people, I am requesting that you amend Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget bill by deleting section I.

Governor Cuomo’s proposal seeks to legalize crossbows for hunting and allow their use at 150 feet from occupied buildings, while also limiting the liability for landowners who want to turn their property into killing grounds. This means that crossbows could be used near areas with high human traffic and activity homes and backyards with children, golf courses, parking lots, student housing, well-traveled roads and public trails, and parks where families spend time and walk their animal companions.

Hunting with crossbows is currently illegal in New York and limited in many other states for good reason; crossbows are inherently more dangerous than other types of hunting weapons. Crossbows require much less skill than compound, long, or recurve bows, which makes them attractive to inexperienced hunters, including children and teenagers.

The wounding rate of deer by bow hunters is already over 50%, which means that more than half of deer are shot but never retrieved by hunters. These animals suffer a prolonged and painful death, which is a direct violation of the “quick death” required by the code of ethics that so-called “sportsmen” claim to adhere to.

Governor Cuomo’s proposal is in line with a dangerous trend to relax bow hunting regulations nationwide to increase hunter recruitment and retention, at the expense of the safety of the non-hunting community, including many of your constituents.

Jeopardizing the safety of the majority of people in order to satisfy a minority of “sportsmen” is unacceptable. New Yorkers have the right to be safe and Governor Cuomo’s proposal should be rejected.

Sincerely, [Your Name] [Your Address] [City, State ZIP]

Speaking of Crossbows…


Outgoing Norwich CT mayor Peter Nystrom is being thanked for his good-heartedness and good citizenship after he found an injured cat, called for help and offered to pay for the animal’s care.

Elliot the cat had been shot in the chest and had a crossbow bolt sticking through him when Mayor Nystrom, out doing some last minute campaigning before Tuesday’s election, found him Monday night in his family’s Norwich yard.

“He wasn’t moving,” Nystrom said. “We weren’t sure he was alive at first but then [the owner’s] daughter came in and got down on the deck with him and that just broke your heart watching.”

Elliot had been missing for two days when he was found. His vets say he most likely had the arrow in him for most of that time.

Nystrom called the animal control officer, and Elliot was rushed to the vet for emergency care at All Friends Animal Hospital in Norwich.

Veterinarians were able to remove the arrow and say Elliot is doing well in his recovery, though it remains to be seen whether he will suffer lasting neurological damage. The cat was up and walking, taking a few steps on Tuesday.

“It didn’t hit anything major, which is unbelievable. It was inches away,” said Lona Harrelle, from All Friends. “Inches away from hitting his heart, his lungs.”

“He didn’t once try to bite or act vicious,” Harrelle said. “And I wouldn’t have blamed him. He’s been in a lot of pain. But he’s been just like this the whole time.”

All Friends vet Kathleen Tangari performed the surgery on Elliot, and said the tissue surrounding the arrow had begun to harden over the two days it was stuck through him, and had sealed off the blood vessels. Dr. Tangari said that plus the cold nighttime temps likely prevented Elliot from bleeding to death.

According to the Norwich Bulletin, Elliot’s owner is elderly and disabled, and unable to pay for the cat’s procedure and related care, so All Friends dipped into its “angel fund” of donated monies to cover the costs. The hospital indicated that Nystrom personally paid toward Elliot’s medical costs.

All Friends says Elliot is much loved by his family, who are devastated by what has occurred.

Peter Nystrom lost a close contest for Mayor to Deb Hinchey on Tuesday, but has earned himself a great deal of good will from the community through his actions and compassion for Elliot and his family.

All Friends Animal Hospital shared photos at Facebook on Monday, and wrote:

“We need your help!! We had a sweet kitty named Elliot come in today with an arrow through his chest. We are hoping to find the person responsible for this heinous act of cruelty. Fortunately for this kitty our city’s mayor Peter Nystrom was is the area and able to contact animal control who rushed Elliot to all friends to seek immediate treatment. Elliot is resting comfortably after having the arrow removed, although we still don’t know if there will be long term nerve damage. Elliot was shot in the area of Gates road in Norwich. If you have any information please contact Norwich animal control at (860) 887-5747.”

The shooting is thought by officials to have been intentional.

Elliot had a visitor today, when a young animal lover named Antonio Annicelli came in to bring a get well card to raise Elliot’s spirits. Antonio shared some special moments with Elliot curled up on his lap.

All Friends hopes Elliot will be ready to go home by the end of the week.

See the video report from WFSB 3 at bottom for more on the story.