My name is Greg Traynor and I am a hunter with a disability. In 1999, at the age of 31, I had a diving accident. As a result, I am paralyzed from the chest down with limited arm movement. I use a power wheelchair for mobility, adapted hunting equipment and a service dog. Of course, there’s lots of help from friends and family to enable me to be as independent as possible every day.
It’s April 2013 and all I can think about is Spring Turkey season! The season starts here in Pennsylvania on April 27th. Since age 12, I have been an avid hunter. I am very fortunate to have taken a few Pennsylvania gobblers over the years. But since my Spinal Cord Injury, I have not harvested a Turkey.
Figure 1 “Photo” Greg Traynor hunting turkeys with his adapted hunting gear.
Hopefully this is the year I am able to fill my tag! More importantly, I would like to encourage you to mentor a friend or family member and take them out Turkey hunting this year. I would also like to ask you to consider taking a hunter with a disability out in the field.
Hunting with a disability presents many challenges and each individual requires his or her own detailed plan to overcome these obstacles. But with some thought and planning ahead it may be easier than you think.
Safety is always the number one priority when hunting. Please check your individual states hunting regulations and obtain all hunter safety certifications prior to starting the process.
Adapted equipment may be needed depending on the amount of mobility and strength of the disabled hunter. The Internet is a great source to obtain any necessary equipment such as adapted gun braces, adapted triggers (BMF Trigger Activator) etc. Take a look around and ask a lot of questions, before you purchase any items.
Hunters like me who use wheelchairs (power wheelchairs or manual wheelchairs) present another level of difficulty getting into the woods. I use a power wheelchair, an Action TrackChair that I believe is the ultimate off road wheelchair. The Action TrackChair is not cheap, but I have found it to be worth its weight in gold. It’s good to explore all your options, you may be able to transfer the hunter onto a mule or use a trailer to transport the wheelchair into your hunting area.
Ground blinds are an excellent set up for hunters with disabilities and provide room for the wheelchair and another hunter acting as an assistant/guide. Ground blinds also hide some movement, which helps when using adapted equipment.
Temperature is another concern when hunting with individuals with disabilities. I am unable to feel from my chest down which means I am very susceptible to hypothermia or frostbite. Not being able to feel my extremities presents a problem in extremely cold or hot hunting temperatures. Each individual is different so it is important to be aware of his or her limitations.
As in every other hunting situation, outdoor skills, scouting, preparation at the shooting range and knowing your effective kill zone play a large part in success or failure. When hunting with a disability, these challenges can be magnified but the memories and experiences are magnified as well. Be safe, shoot straight and don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can.