Wheelin’ Sportsmen help local hunters with disabilities bag their own bucks

Courtesy photo Mike Allard, a Christian Park resident who went on a hunting trip with the Wheelin’ Sportsmen last fall, waits for a deer to come into the blind with a Christian Park resident nurse.

ESCANABA — The Wheelin’ Sportsmen has been helping disabled hunters of all ages get back into the woods to go hunting for over 10 years.

According to Ken Buchholtz, chairman of the Wheelin’ Sportsmen, the program has taken hunters from all over the Upper Peninsula to hunt for turkey and deer with the use of specially-made equipment. The program is fully operated by volunteers and funded from grants and countless donations from around the community.

Wheelin’ Sportsmen currently has three state-of-the-art, fully accessible mobile hunting and target shooting units, said Buchholtz. These units allow people with disabilities the opportunity to overcome barriers that keep them from the great outdoors and the chance to get back out in the blind to hunt a deer or turkey, explained Buchholtz.

The units are fully equipped with HD screen monitors that connect with the gun’s sight and a table unit that holds a “sip and puff” trigger actuator. The actuator allows the hunter to take a breath in on a tube, which pulls the trigger, noted Buchholtz.

Wheelin’ Sportsmen also has equipment for target shooting, shooting sport clays, and crossbow shooting.

Courtesy photo A deer harvested by Wheelin Sportsmen hunter Mike Allard is shown. Allard used special adaptive equipment provided by the Wheelin’ Sportsmen to shoot the buck.

One hunter, Mike Allard, 58, went on his first hunt with the Wheelin’ Sportsmen in October 2017. At first, Allard said he was hesitant to go, but is happy that he did. Allard and his wife, Denise, have lived in the Upper Peninsula since 1995, residing in the Skandia area.

Following a medical incident that left Allard paralyzed from the neck down, Allard now lives at Christian Park Village in Escanaba. Prior to the incident, Allard was an avid sportsmen, hunting with his best friend of over 30 years, Bill Boik.

The activities director at Christian Park Village told Allard that he should get involved with Buchholtz and try out the Wheelin’ Sportsmen program. With some persuasion, Allard finally agreed to try and go hunting for the first time since becoming paralyzed.

“It was great,” said Allard of his experience. “Without Ken’s help, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

After going out hunting two times, it was the second trip out into the woods before Allard got a buck.

Courtesy photo Above, Ken Buchholtz, left, chairman of Wheelin’ Sportsmen, enjoys venison tenderloin with Mike Allard, a Christian Park resident who went on a hunting trip with the Wheelin’ Sportsmen last fall.

It was a rainy day in October and Allard, Buchholtz, a Christian Park nurse, and Boik were sitting in the mobile unit waiting for a deer to come into sight. About 180 yards out, a buck was spotted, noted Allard.

Taking aim with the specially equipped rifle, Allard puffed in on the tube that connected with the trigger. While it was nice to capture a deer that day, Allard said what he enjoyed the most was being able to connect with nature again.

“It was nice to be able to hear the wind coming through the trees,” said Allard. “It was nice to listen to the rainfall.”

After Allard’s deer was processed, Buchholtz thought it was fitting to let the accomplished hunter have a taste of his kill. Allard said Buchholtz brought over grilled, venison tenderloins and sausage for he and his wife to try. Allard noted the experience was one he will never forget.

“It makes you appreciate being able to walk through the woods,” said Allard. “I was glad I went. Ken goes above and beyond. You can tell he loves what he does.”

For more information regarding the Wheelin’ Sportsmen program, call Buchholtz at (906) 553-2268 or contact him via email at kwbuck@icloud.com.