Group helps Utah paraplegics hunt and fish again
Provo resident Bryan Hatch, who is paraplegic, recently caught a sheep at the Chairbound Hunter’s Archery Corsican Sheep hunt in Redmond, Utah.
Vance Anderson, who broke his back when he was 17 in a weight-lifting incident has recently been able to hunt again since that time thanks to the Chairbound Hunter Utah Chapter using a retrofitted four-wheeler and using a pistol, which gives him a broader range of motion.
Chris Scott Para from Spanish Fork participates in the Archery Turkey hunt at Hobble Creek.
John Perry Quad from Orem recently went Bow fishing at Deer Creek Reservoir with the Chairbound Hunter Utah Chapter.
After the paraplegic members of the Chairbound Hunters Utah Chapter get strapped into the retrofitted four-wheelers, the group discusses the day hunting pheasants.
It is a hunter’s worst nightmare – to lose the ability to hunt. Without the use of legs, hunting becomes tricky, and many paraplegics give up the sport after they are injured.
When Doyle Hess fell out of tree 14 years ago while cutting tree limbs, he didn’t think he could continue his love of hunting and fishing. The Taylor resident was confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed from the hips down.
Such is the dilemma for many paraplegics in Top of Utah. However, the Chairbound Hunters Utah Chapter, now four years old, works to change the lives of wheelchair-bound hunters who thought hunting was only a dream. With the help of volunteers, they can navigate the terrain with wheelchairs or four-wheelers retrofitted to accommodate a wheelchair.
The Chairbound Hunter Utah Chapter was formed when Kenneth Vaughn’s grandson was injured in a four-wheeler accident at the age of 14, resulting in him being a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair. The two had been hunting since his grandson was 8 years old. They still tried to hunt after the accident, but it proved too difficult.
“I could see firsthand how missing the outdoors was so hard on him and I was determined to still make it happen,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn found out about the Wyoming-based nonprofit organization Chairbound Hunters that offered free guided hunting for wheelchair-bound persons, mainly deer and antelope. Recently, the IRS granted the chapter their own 501(c)(3) nonprofit status as “Chairbound Sportsman,” allowing them to expand the outdoor adventures to hunting, fishing and more, helping not only wheelchair bound hunters, but any disabled persons or wounded warriors.
The State of Utah allows registered disabled hunters to shoot from a vehicle. Volunteers then help with transfers in and out of vehicles, in and out of blinds, spotting and retrieving game and providing hunting camps. Critical to the program’s success is having support from landowners where they can hunt with less pressure.
Recently, several members of the group hunted on a pheasant farm south of Nephi with permission from the landowners. Five shooters, four in wheelchairs and one wounded warrior, used modified four-wheelers with seats up front where the paraplegic hunters were lifted up and strapped in, giving them good visibility while the volunteers ran the four-wheelers and stopped as dogs went on point.
“It is wonderful to see the smiles and sometimes tears of joy from our hunters. Our volunteers also feel the same way and count it a blessing to be a part of our adventures,” Vaughn said. “We often hear our first-time hunters say, ‘I thought I was never going to hunt pheasants again (because of) my accident.'”
Hess can relate because that is how he felt after getting back into hunting after 14 years.
“It was something I thought I could never do again,” Hess said. “Getting back to hunting brought everything in focus for me because I love to be outside.”
When he hunts elk, the volunteers set up the blind, then drive Hess and his fellow hunters as far as possible, then push them in their chairs out into the blind.
“It is incredible. I feel alive again,” Hess said.
The group has sponsored hunts for prairie dogs, antelopes, coyotes, deer, elk, turkeys, pheasants and a buffalo. Cougar and bear have eluded them so far, since wheelchair and four-wheelers are not suited for very mountainous terrain.
The club recently fundraised enough money to purchase a One Action Trackchair, an electric off-road wheelchair for use on the sponsored hunts. It has been used by quadriplegic hunters who are normally familiar with the controls. The other four-wheelers used on hunts or brought by volunteers.
For more information on participating or donating, visit www.chairboundhuntersut.com.