ESCANABA - I've been accused of being one of those "glass is half full" guys." Well for those of you wondering, I am!
Why go through life miserable? Why not work towards success rather than wring your hands on all that is wrong with the world?
There is nothing wrong with having empathy for things that aren't as you feel they should be. There is no excuse for not doing anything but complain.
Hunter Bob Miller sits in a blind provided for handicapped hunting. With him are: from left, ISD principal and CTE director Chuck Guay, manufacturer Precision Trades Instructor Darrell Mullins, Miller, Barry Gasman of Great Lakes Sports & Recreation Club, Ken Bucholtz of GLSRC and NWTF and Building Technology Instructor Bob Benson.
I have been concerned with hunter recruitment and retention well before concern and planning for resolve was initiated a half decade ago. I have been involved in hunter safety and ATV safety training as an instructor, and worked with the legislature to amend the age when youth can begin hunting, and under the guidance of an adult mentor.
One area in need of attention has been for those individuals who lack the ability to go afield and pursue wild game.
Some kids, adults and seniors either have been stricken with a disabling disease or injury that restricts their mobility or capability to cope with the outdoors setting. Although they represent a small amount of the general populous, anyone with a disability should have the opportunity to get out and enjoy our natural resources, including hunting. It should be their choice.
Sponsored and controlled hunts from Safari Club International and the Hunt of a Lifetime organizations serve a genuine good, especially for those with terminal disease. But what about those who have normal life functions on a day-to-day basis, living with a disability in such a manner that to most, it is not note worthy. They want to have hunting as part of their normal routine.
Enter the likes of conservation organizations who are now networking with other agencies and enterprises to make these dreams come true. They are combining the skills of younger students to facilitate the opportunity, while at the same time educating these same individuals about our outdoors heritage, and the importance of helping others.
Ken Buchholtz from the Bay de Noc Gobblers Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), teamed with fellow sportsman and officer of the Great Lakes Sports and Recreation Club, Barry Gasman, to take on a specific project related to hunting and conservation.
They utilized the Delta/Schoolcraft Intermediate School District (ISD) through their building and trades program to construct and then distribute barrel feeders for the NWTF Turkey Feeding Program. Once completed, the pair looked at resolving other needs, including the development of a program to aid those with disabilities to get into or return to the sport of hunting.
By utilizing the ISD Career Technical Education (CTE) Program, they devised a plan to not only secure viable access and shelter for these hunters, they are currently developing mechanical devices that will enable some of these same hunters, with reduced motor function, to safely discharge a firearm and on target.
The duo met with ISD Principal and CTE Director Chuck Guay, incorporating the skills and services of Bob Benson, Building Technology Instructor and Darrell Mullins, Manufacturing/Precision Trades Instructor for the ISD.
Combined the group set out to design hunting blinds that would accommodate wheelchairs and be portable enough to be moved for varying seasons and opportunities.
Bob Miller of Escanaba has been in a power-based wheelchair ever since being injured in an ATV accident two decades ago. He can tell you down to the minute how that event forever changed his life.
Bob was an outdoors enthusiast and never changed his passion for the outdoors, it just seemed the opportunity was taken away, until a couple of years ago.
Having been a guest at one of the NWTF "Wheelin' Sportsmen" programs, Miller got the bug to get back outdoors. He learned there are still opportunities for those with physical disabilities to continue to enjoy the outdoors. Since then, he has vowed to expand his participation and assisted the group with the ISD to develop a product.
Through the guidance of Benson, the ISD students applied their building skills to provide a prototype that could be field tested and critiqued. Mullins continues to work with Guay in developing a device that can be applied in several scenarios that would enable the firing of a gun by the disabled hunter, in a safe yet smooth transition enhancing accuracy.
The whole concept was put to use this spring. Miller proved it successful as he bagged a trophy turkey, using his modified Mossberg shotgun and ISD blind.
Now the unit will be modified to be sure it has as all needs considered as an option and from there will be another means of keeping those who want the opportunity to continue in the sport of hunting.
I know Miller is sold on the idea and can't wait to try it again this fall, as he sets his sights on deer hunting.
As for the project leadership, they are but another example that the glass is half full, and are working to put it over the top.
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.