Every year since I turned 17 years old, as the days grow shorter and the morning temperatures fall lower, I start feeling the urge to get out in the woods and enjoy the hunting sports. I mostly participate in dove and deer hunting. After my accident in 2006, I had to look for new ways to continue enjoying these activities. Since I am a paraplegic, hunting from my portable climbing stands, or ladder stands, were no longer an option for me. Navigating in the woods in my manual wheelchair can be difficult. I began my search for a powered vehicle that would get me back in the game. I discovered there were many suitable options. Each option has its pros and cons.
Getting back into dove hunting was not much of a challenge since most dove fields can be accessed from a pick-up truck. The biggest challenge is how to retrieve the doves. Lacking a good bird dog, I turned to the next best thing. My son! He has turned out to be a pretty good retriever! When he is not available, I have found that there is usually an over abundance of “stand in retrievers” on most dove fields willing to fetch the ones I knock down.
Returning to the deer woods has taken a bit more creativity. I have yet to find a one size fits all solution to any and all kinds of woodland territory. I have found the combination of a power scooter, power chair, four wheeler, and a golf cart to cover most areas that I have available to hunt. Combining those with permanent and portable ground blinds, the effective use of natural elevation changes, and strategically placed food plots and I am right back in the hunt! Of course, all this takes some help to get set-up so a full supply of hunting buddies is a bonus.
One of my favorite new adaptive devices, that I was lucky enough to find for sale on line, is a used hydraulic lift deer blind. It is a trailer-mounted contraption that uses hydraulics to raise a box blind about 15 feet into the air. It is useful as long as you have a good place on your hunting land where it can be set-up and left without having to worry about somebody hooking up to it and taking it to their hunting land.
Another option that I have found available to me is hunting with one of several organizations that host hunts for people with disabilities of all kinds. They usually organize a weekend hunt, including morning and afternoon hunts with guides and helpers, to get the hunters in and out of the hunting blinds and retrieve any game harvested. They also usually provide some mighty fine vittles at lunch time.
Probably the biggest investment I have made to get myself back in the hunting woods is my modified Club Car Golf Cart. It will access the majority of areas I want to hunt and, being electric, it is quiet and does not have the gasoline odor of a gas powered cart or my four-wheeler. I also have to say it is a pretty comfortable way to hunt either by myself or with a hunting buddy. It is a late 90’s model Club Car with a new camouflage body, tan top, and black seats. Besides installing hand controls that I found on E-Bay, I have made some modifications to my cart to make it more effective off road. While many people choose to raise their carts with a lift kit, I decided not to do that. In my opinion, it only makes the transfer into the cart more difficult while not providing enough added ground clearance to make a difference or warrant the expense. I did add stiffer leaf-springs which do raise the cart a bit and allows bigger knobby tires for better traction. A front winch, accessory basket, high intensity lights, floor mounted rifle rack, and rear folding seats that becomes a utility bed round out the obvious modifications. What you don’t see without lifting the seat are the higher amperage controller for more torque, the six 8 volt high capacity deep cycle batteries, and the on board 48 volt charger that keep it ready to leave the pavement. As a side note, I bought some fleece camouflage blankets that I hang on all four sides once I have gotten to my hunting location and it effectively becomes a portable box blind. I stay pretty warm in it as well. In colder climates you could even have a small portable heater that would make things pretty toasty. When I first got my cart, I bought a camouflage enclosure but I found it to be noisy and not very useful since it has to be taken off to tow the cart on my trailer. Of course, that takes time and requires help from an able bodied friend. I find it much easier to hang my fleece blankets around the sides when needed. I can also plug in my cell phone to keep it charged in case I do run into a situation where I have to call for help.
Although hunting requires much more logistical planning than it did prior to my accident, there is no reason to believe that getting back in the woods is a thing of the past after becoming mobility challenged.
Where there is a will there is a way. As always… stay safe and happy hunting.
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/0915/0044