Veterans to hunt moose from wheelchairs

Posted: Friday, August 22, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) The Army Corps of Engineers has teamed with a national group to help three Lower 48 wheelchair-bound veterans fulfill a dream: moose hunting in Alaska.

The Corps and the Paralyzed Veterans of America are creating wheelchair accessible areas within the Chena Flood Control Project in North Pole. The hunters will take to the field for five days.

''I think there's a better-than-average chance for one of these guys to get a moose,'' said John Schaake, manager at the flood control project.

The flood control project diverts water from the Chena River when it threatens Fairbanks.

The hunt will take place Sept. 1-5 on the north side of the Chena River near the Moose Creek Dam, Schaake said. The Corps plans to create several spots where the disabled hunters can sit and watch for moose, and shoot one if they see a legal bull.

''We've selected some sites,'' said Schaake. ''I went over there last week and camped to sort of scout it out. I didn't see any (moose) but they're over there and people have been successful in the past.''

The PVA has about 40,000 members in 50 states. The organization and the local Corps have been working together the past four or five years but this will be the first big-game hunt arranged through the partnership, said Doug Warlen, who acts as special projects officer for shooting sports.

''Alaska is a dream place for everyone but for somebody in a chair that's a hunter it's certainly a dream, and, in most cases, it's a dream they can't take on,'' he said from his Washington, D.C. office.

The Alaska hunt is part of a new outdoors program initiated by the PVA to offer more hunting and shooting activities. A recent survey revealed that hunting ranked No. 5 on the list of activities the club's members were interested in.

The PVA has participated in deer and waterfowl hunts in the Lower 48.

''We hope to use this as a model for other projects around the country,'' Warlen said.

Schaake suggested the Chena Flood Control Project to the PVA when he heard about the new outdoors program. Warlen visited the flood control project in May and liked what he saw.

''It's perfect,'' he said. ''You couldn't ask for a better area. It's flat and you can drive right up to most places.''

The area selected by Schaake is popular with other hunters. The Corps is encouraging them to avoid using the area for the first five days of the season, he said.

''We're hoping for some public cooperation so these guys can have a good hunt.''

The PVA is donating a ''Hunt Master'' to the Corps to be used by other disabled hunters at the flood control project. The $8,000 device is similar to a scissors lift and serves as sort of a tree stand. It is 6 feet long and 4 feet wide so it can accommodate wheelchairs. It can be raised about 8 feet in the air.

The lift is expected to arrive in the next two weeks and will be used for the upcoming hunt, Warlen said.

Bev Fronterhouse of North Pole, the national president of Safari Club International, is helping Warlen find local hunters to accompany wheelchair hunters in the field.

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