By Cameron Brown
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 American's 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
|(Top) Plains Antelope.
|(Middle) Mule Deer.
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.
|Example of a typical bolt action rifle.
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 paraplegic 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).
By 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)
In yet another example 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 canceled
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 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 the hunter gather information on regulations
from the department of natural resources, department of fish and
wildlife or other licensing agency in the state 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.
Hunters Safety Courses
In some states a hunter is required to attend a hunters safety course
and acquire a hunters safety card before they are allowed to hunt.
The courses are generally administered by the department of natural
resources, department of fish and wildlife or other licensing agency
for the state in which a hunter wishes to hunt. 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
a test is administered to the participants. If the participants
score well enough on the exam they are issued a hunters safety card.
A person with a disability may wish to ask one or more of the following
questions before attending a hunters safety course:
- Is the location of the course physically accessible?
- If I use adaptive equipment (for shooting a firearm etc.) do I need
to bring it to the course?
- Is the course material available in alternative formats (i.e. Braille,
large print, audio, etc.)?
- Will a sign language interpreter be available during the course?
The agency responsible for the administration of a hunters 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 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 the hunter gather information
on regulations regarding companions from the department of natural
resources, department of fish and wildlife or other licensing agency
in the state 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.
|Aftermarket products that allow a person with a
disability to shift some ATV's, such as a common four wheeler,
All Terrain Vehicles
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 such as those pictured on this page. There are
even a select few on the market that allow a person with a mobility
device to stay in their device or take it with them. In addition,
there are aftermarket products like those pictured below available
that allow a person with a disability to shift some ATV's such as
a common four wheeler electronically.
ATV's 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 they usually
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
in its importance to the hunt. The more familiar a hunter is with
their long arm the safer they will be able to handle it.
Some equipment other than the chosen long arm will need to be packed for
use during the hunt. This equipment may include but is not limited
- Sharpe knife- for use when dressing the animal
- Bone saw- for use when dressing the animal
- Field glasses or binoculars
- Extra ammunition
- A lunch
- Cellular Phone- for contacting help if needed
It is important to note that among the items listed the items that are
needed for dressing out the animal are among the most needed. 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 hunters safety classes.
|Example of Blaze Orange clothing.
Shooter is using a tripod.
Photo courtesy of LevelLok Inc.
In addition, proper clothing will be needed for the hunt. The desired clothing
needs to be able to 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 themselves. It is important for the hunter who has limited
mobility to 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 however, for hunters with mobility
impairments the one piece nature of this clothing can present problems.
It can be very difficult to get in and out of and can cause discomfort
in a seated position. It is best to dress in layers separating the
top and bottom half of the body. It is important to note that state
regulations require that big game hunters wear blaze orange clothing
while hunting. The required amount varies from state to state.
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 thus allowing the user to add or remove sections and
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.
|Device which allows adaptive equipment to mount to mobility device.
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 above. 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.
|Device which assists in pulling trigger on long arm.
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 them
to operate the trigger on a long arm there are devices that
assist in trigger operation.
There are also elaborate devices that 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 it can be mounted on a table
attached to a wheelchair or other mobility device.
|Device which allows an individual to fire a long arm at the touch or puff of a switch.
For individuals who have the ability to walk but require assistance supporting
a long arm a variety of options exist. Some of which are pictured
below. 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 their
aim. A major advantage of this device is it allow the user to be
more mobile giving them the ability to choose different hunting
|(Top) Chair Stand with
Long Arm Support.
|(Bottom) Body System
with Arm Support.
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
|A simple mounting bracket can be constructed to extend a sight bar or scope. Photo and diagram courtesy of Buckmasters.
Organizations and Resources
Buckmasters Disabled Sportsmen's Resources
David Sullivan, Director
11802 Creighton Ave
Northport, AL 35475
Buckmasters Quadriplegic Hunters Association
Contact: Jeff Lucas
PO Box 117
Hyde Park, NY, 12538
National Rifle Association
Hunter Services Department
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
*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. Individuals
should investigate and determine on their own which equipment best
fits their needs.
Access to Recreation
PO Box 5072-430
Thousand Oaks, CA 91359-5072
Body Pod Mfg.
PO Box 224
Bernie, MO 63822-0224
Kenomis Outdoors Inc.
2440 N. Beckley
Lancaster, TX 75134
or Toll Free (877) 220-0077
LevelLok by Brutis Enterprises Inc.
105 South 12th St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
Contact :Bob Bowen
363 Maple St.
Chadron, NE 69337
Venture Products Inc.
P.O. Box 148
Orville, OH 44667
P.O. Box 30
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
Contact: Bill Lunceford, Jr.
P.O. Box 451
Jackson, MS 39205
Sharp Shooter Wheelchair Kit
301 West Saunders
Laredo, TX 78040
Universal Arm Enable, Inc.
5436 N. Dean Rd.
Orlando, FL 32817
Orlando: (407) 678-1729
Tallahassee :(904) 893-5027
About the Author
Cameron Brown previously worked as an accessibility specialist
at the National Center on Accessibility. His primary responsibilities
included answering technical assistance questions via phone, letter
or NCA e-mail 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 work at NCA he was pursuing a graduate degree
in forestry at Southern Illinois University.
About this Article
This article was edited for the National Center on Physical Activity
and Disability, a collaborative project of the National Center on
Accessibility, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Rehabilitation
Institute of Chicago. NCPAD is headquartered at the Department of
Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago,1640
West Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL 60608-6904. NCPAD is funded by
the Secondary Conditions Prevention Branch, Office on Disability
and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.ncpad.org
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