Disabled hunters find activity still possible

Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2002

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- As summer gives way to fall and hunters across the state ready their equipment for the woods, a local project may give disabled men, women and children a better chance to enjoy the outdoors.

Begun by Bobby and Cathy Bower about 18 months ago, Dream Catcher Outdoor Adventures is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing hunting, fishing and nature viewing opportunities to disabled persons.

''My grandpa, for the last 15 years of his life, couldn't get out of the house,'' Bobby Bower said. The venture sponsored a dove hunt for five people on opening weekend.

''I've been an outdoorsman all my life. I just wanted to do this. I want to do this for the rest of my life,'' he said.

Bower said he envisions the project providing handicapped-accessible outdoor opportunities for people from across the country.

Dream Catchers has several plots of land available, including timber land in the Atkins Bottoms for deer and turkey hunting and 80 acres near the Pope-Conway County line for dove and duck hunting. Plans include more land and a lodge.

Bower has six more hunts planned this year, but he stressed that the organization will offer activities outside of hunting.

''If someone is not into hunting and wants to go out and videotape deer, observe deer, there will be a place for that,'' he said. ''We have a handcycle trail planned, or they could use a golf cart, just to get out into the woods.

''We are working with the Arkansas Spinal Cord Commission with newly injured people so they can come see us for a week, year around. We can say, you don't have to quit. There are things to do,'' Bower said.

Tony LeQuieu, board member of Arkansas Disabled Sportsmen, said that hunting for disabled persons can be more work than fun.

''A person who is paraplegic but has use of his arms and upper torso may be able to get around better, but it is still very difficult. If it rains, that will negate them from getting to their blind or stand. As far as taking game, if they were to actually shoot a deer, there's no way for them to load it up on an ATV or tractor or truck without help,'' he said.

''For the dove hunt we had, it's possible that a person could go out into the field and retrieve a dove, but you would only be able to go after one or two birds and that would be your hunt because of fatigue,'' he said.

Funding for the project has trickled in from individuals and companies. Bower and others are seeking grants.

''I haven't beat the bushes trying to raise money, but we've raised a few thousand dollars,'' Bower said Friday. ''This is just getting going. I have 50 applications to hunt right now. I get them every day.''

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On the Net:

Dream Catchers http://www.dreamcatcheroutdoor.org

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