Sports & Team Games
Hunting as a form of outdoor recreation can be traced back to the medieval era when feudal lords organized hunts to entertain guests. However, it wasn’t until the late 19th century that hunting was viewed by North Americans as something other than a method for acquiring food. The formation of the Boone and Crockett Club in 1887 legitimized hunting as a form of sport in North America.
In 1955 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began conducting a series of surveys on the number of individuals who participate in the activity of hunting. The USFWS conducts a new survey once every five years. The most recent survey was completed in 1996. The survey shows that 11.3 million individuals participated in a big game hunt in 1996. Sampling methods show that 5 percent of all big game hunters in 1996 were people with disabilities.
BIG GAME HUNTING
Big game hunting is generally classified as hunting for deer, antelope, and elk. In some western states this classification will also include moose, big horn sheep, bears, mountain lions and mountain goats.
The term “long arm” applies to guns of larger size and shape weighing 6 to 10 lbs. A typical long arm will require the use of both arms and hands to support it. Guns usually classified as long arms include rifles, shotguns, and black powder rifles.
Each state has individual permit and/or licensing systems that require a hunter to purchase a permit or license to hunt. Regulations and allowances for hunters with a disability vary widely from state to state. For example, Massachusetts issues “free licenses, both hunting and fishing, to paraplegics and free fishing licenses to the blind or mentally retarded. In addition, this agency will issue a free hunting and/or fishing license to a non-resident paraplegic provided that the state in which the non-resident resides offers similar privileges to a Massachusetts resident paraplegic” (Chapter 131 M.G.L., Section 11). Further, a paraplegic hunter is allowed to discharge a firearm from a vehicle, provided that the vehicle is not in motion and that the vehicle is not within 150 ft. of a state or hard surfaced road, or within 500 ft. of a dwelling in use. (Massachusetts Division of Wildlife)
In contrast, Indiana’s requirements are more extensive: “Applying for a Handicapped Hunting Permit requires completion of an application form and a physician's statement of disability form. It is very important that you completely describe your disability in your own words, in the space provided and provide us with information on how you want to hunt. Please describe the weapons you will be using, whether or not you need to hunt from a vehicle and any other aspect of hunting that would currently be illegal. Your physician must fill out the physician's statement of disability form completely. Since we cannot interview you personally or have you examined by the physician on our review committee, your physician must describe your disability fully. We must know the extent of your disability.” (Indiana Department of Natural Resources)
Wyoming takes a different approach: “Handicapped hunters shall be allowed to shoot from a stationary vehicle to take wildlife after receiving from the Department a free handicapped hunter permit. A permanent handicapped hunter permit to shoot from a vehicle will be valid for the life of the applicant. To qualify for such permanent permit, the applicant must qualify as a handicapped hunter and shall produce at time of application a letter from a physician verifying the handicap is permanent. A permit may be cancelled by the department if it is determined the permittee does not qualify according to the definition of a handicapped hunter. Annual handicapped hunter permits to shoot from the vehicle will be valid during the calendar year.” (Wyoming Game & Fish Commission)
Because of the variation in regulations as shown by the previous examples, it is important that hunters gather information on regulations from the department of natural resources, department of fish and wildlife, or other licensing agency in the state in which they desire to hunt and apply for the appropriate permits. It is important that the hunter observe all state laws and regulations associated with hunting.
HUNTER SAFETY COURSES
In some states, a hunter is required to attend a hunter safety course and acquire a hunter safety card before being allowed to hunt. The courses are generally administered by the department of natural resources, department of fish and wildlife, or other licensing agency. Information on course locations can usually be obtained from a local big game license vendor. Courses usually take place over a weekend and cover the following topics: identification of different types of firearms, safe handling of firearms, safe hunting practices and techniques, big game species identification, proper handling of acquired game animals, and state hunting laws. Once the course material is completed, and a test is administered to the participants. If the participants score well enough on the exam, they are issued a hunter safety card.
A person with a disability may wish to ask one or more of the following questions before attending a hunter safety course: · Is the location of the course physically accessible? · If I use adaptive equipment, such as for shooting a firearm, do I need to bring it to the course? · Is the course material available in alternative formats, such as Braille, large print, audio, etc? · Will a sign language interpreter be available during the course?
The agency responsible for the administration of a hunter safety course should be contacted by the person with a disability for answers to these questions and/or requests for accommodations.
In general, states allow hunters with a disability to hunt independently in locations designated for hunting. In some cases, areas that provide good accessibility but are not normally designated for hunting are opened to be used by hunters with disabilities.
In some states, designated or “special” hunts for individuals with disabilities are held each year. These hunts are usually arranged by the state agency which regulates hunting. For example, in Indiana, the regulating agency is Indiana Department of Natural Resources. For Wyoming, it is the Department of Fish and Game. In most cases, the state agency will designate a time and location for a special hunt. Hunters then apply for the opportunity to participate in the hunt. In general, the number of hunters with disabilities selected to participate is limited by the managing agency to ensure their ability to assist the hunters with disabilities. At these hunts, volunteers are generally available to assist with finding and procuring game animals. However, hunters with disabilities are not limited to only these types of hunts.
In general, each state has regulations that allow a person with a disability who is hunting independent of a designated program to hunt with a companion. However, due to variance in regulations from state to state, it is important that hunters gather information on regulations regarding companions from the department of natural resources, department of fish and wildlife, or other licensing agency in the state in which they desire to hunt.
Location is a key element to a successful hunt. In states where “special” hunts and/or designated areas are planned for hunters with a disability, locations that offer good accessibility to animal traffic patterns are designed into the hunt. Hunting is generally done from a stationary position. In some cases, planned hunts are done from a vehicle such as a truck or some form of ATV.
Hunters who choose to hunt independently in a general designated hunting area need to find a location that will provide them with opportunities for success. There are several factors for a hunter to consider when choosing a location. First, is the area easily accessed by vehicle or mobility device (i.e., wheelchair, scooter, etc.)? Second, is the area near known animal traffic patterns? Third, does the area offer good visibility? Fourth, if an animal is acquired, can it be easily transported out of the area? Finally, can help be acquired if needed? It is important to remember that when using a vehicle, the hunter acquires all required permits. Visiting an area prior to a hunt will help to identify good locations.
Some hunters with a disability may choose to use an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) to gain access to hunting areas. There are several options available, and a select few on the market that allow persons with a mobility device to stay in their device or take it with them. In addition, there are aftermarket products which allow a person with a disability to shift some ATVs electronicallly, such as a common four wheeler.
ATVs offer some advantages to hunters with disabilities. They are smaller, allowing them to go places a larger vehicle cannot, and they are able to negotiate rough terrain. Most mobility devices such as scooters or wheelchairs are at a greater disadvantage in the outdoors. An ATV can allow a hunter with a disability to reach areas he/she usually cannot.
PREPARATION AND EQUIPMENT
Prior to a hunting trip, some preparation is necessary to ensure a safe and successful hunt. Time to practice firing and becoming familiar with the long arm of choice will help prevent problems during the hunt. This is a necessary step that is often overlooked: the more familiar hunters are with their long arms, the safer they can handle them.
Some equipment other than the chosen long arm must be packed for use during the hunt. This equipment may include but is not limited to:
- Sharpe knife: for dressing the animal
- Bone saw: for dressing the animal
- Field glasses or binoculars
- Extra ammunition
- A lunch
- Cellular Phone: for contacting help if needed
Among the items listed, the items for dressing out the animal are the most necessary. For hunters attending a designated hunt, these items may not be needed because assistance dressing out the animal is often provided by hunt volunteers. However, for hunters who wish to create their own experience, it is important to gain the knowledge necessary to carry out the task of dressing out the animal. Techniques are usually taught in hunter safety classes.
In addition, proper clothing will be needed for the hunt. The desired clothing must keep the hunter warm and dry in an outdoor setting. The clothing should also be comfortable and provide extra warmth in areas of the body that may have poor blood circulation. Some outdoor clothing is designed to generate warmth when the wearer exerts himself/herself. However, the hunter who has limited mobility should not wear this type of clothing. Clothing that is warm and comfortable while sitting is best for hunters with mobility impairments. The most common type of clothing used in hunting are full body coveralls in camouflage or blaze orange. This type of clothing is generally very warm, but for hunters with mobility impairments, a one-piece outfit can be difficult for dressing/undressing and can cause discomfort while in a seated position. It is best to dress in layers separating the top and bottom half of the body. Note that state regulations require that big game hunters wear blaze orange clothing while hunting. The required amount varies from state to state.
Fortunately for hunters with a disability, there are a number of products available for use as hunting aides. The products vary widely in price and desired function.
For example, the tripod is modular and can be used several ways. A bracket can be purchased that mounts the center post of the tripod onto the forearm of the long arm. This allows the shooter to use the device as a monopod. The center post of the device is assembled in sections which allows the user to add or remove sections and to make height adjustments. This feature makes the device useable from a sitting, standing, kneeling, or prone position. It can also be used as shown above in a more stable tripod configuration at different heights as previously mentioned. Its versatility offers options to people with a variety of mobility impairments.
For those individuals who wish to mount adaptive equipment to their mobility device, there are a number of options available like the one pictured at right. The advantage of this type of device is that it allows the individual to have the comfort and stability of their mobility device and a method of supporting and steadying a long arm that moves with them. Unlike a bipod, tripod, or monopod, this device does not have to be carried separately much like a photographer must carry a separate tripod and camera. These devices support the majority of the weight of the long arm. This allows someone who does not have the ability to support the full weight of the long arm the ability to do so.
For individuals with fine motor impairments or no motor function, there are other options available. If, for example, a person has an impairment that does not allow him/her to operate the trigger on a long arm, there are devices that assist in trigger operation. For example,other devices allow an individual to fire a long arm at the touch or puff of a switch.
A standard long arm can be placed within the device and then can be mounted on a table attached to a wheelchair or other mobility device.
For individuals who have the ability to walk but require assistance supporting a long arm, a variety of options exist. Some are pictured. The first item is a chair stand that allows the user to be well supported in a seated position with a device that supports the long arm. This support is similar in function to the previously mentioned device that attaches to wheelchairs or other mobility devices. The body pod is a system that is worn on the body and supports the off hand at the upper arm. It assists the user in supporting the weight of the long arm as well as helping the user steady his/her aim. A major advantage of this device is that it allows the user to be more mobile in choosing different hunting locations.
A device is also available that when attached to a firearm, allows a person who is blind to be assisted by an individual with sight in aiming a firearm. A simple mounting bracket can be constructed to extend a sight bar or scope out to the side of a firearm (see photo and diagram below). A sighted hunting partner can then aim over the shoulder of the vision-impaired shooter. The two can work together in developing touch and whisper signals to raise, aim, and shoot the weapon safely and effectively.
ORGANIZATIONS AND RESOURCES
Buckmasters Disabled Sportsmen's Resources
David Sullivan, Director
11802 Creighton Ave Northport, AL 35475
Buckmasters Quadriplegic Hunters Association
P.O. Box 117
Hyde Park, NY, 12538
National Rifle Association
Hunter Services Department
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
Access to Recreation
PO Box 5072-430
Thousand Oaks, CA 91359-5072
Body Pod Manufacturing
PO Box 224 Bernie, MO 63822-0224
Kenomis Outdoors Inc.
2440 N. Beckley
Lancaster, TX 75134
(972) 224-0077 or Toll Free (877) 220-0077
LevelLok by Brutis Enterprises Inc.
105 South 12th Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
363 Maple Street
Chadron, NE 69337
Venture Products Inc.
P.O. Box 148
Orville, OH 44667
P.O. Box 30 Rte. #321
Wilcox, PA 15870
TGS-10, The Turret Rifle/Gun System
Taylor's Alternative Therapeutic Devices
33933 Madera De Playa
Temecula, CA 92592
Hands-Free Wheelchair Shooting Device
Bill Lunceford, Jr.
P.O. Box 451
Jackson, MS 39205
Sharp Shooter Wheelchair Kit
301 West Saunders
Laredo, TX 78040
5436 N. Dean Rd.
Orlando, FL 32817
Orlando: (407) 678-1729
About the Author
Cameron Brown works as an accessibility specialist at the National Center on Accessibility. His primary responsibilities include answering technical assistance questions via phone, letter, or NCA email, and gathering data on venders who provide accessible recreation equipment. A native of Colorado, Cameron earned a bachelor’s degree in Recreation from the University of Southern Colorado in 1995. Prior to his arrival at NCA, he was pursuing a graduate degree in forestry at Southern Illinois University.
The information provided here is offered as a service only. The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability, University of Illinois at Chicago, the National Center on Accessibility, and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago do not formally recommend or endorse the equipment listed. As with any products or services, consumers should investigate and determine on their own which equipment best fits their needs and budget.