Fort Leonard Wood gives disabled hunters an assist

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Fort Leonard Wood gives disabled hunters an assist

By Tim Renken Of the Post-Dispatch
07/06/2001


The most expensive tree stand in the new Bass Pro Shops hunting catalogue costs $450. It's a fancy one, with seats for two, a 15-foot ladder, shooting rail, foot rest and everything but a wet bar.

$450? That's peanuts. Last month Anheuser-Busch paid about $7,500 each for two stands headed for Fort Leonard Wood. No, this isn't another million-dollar military toilet seat. The stands are pretty special - as special as the cause. They are designed to allow paralyzed people to go deer or turkey hunting.

Bud Lift 1 and 2 are Huntmaster units designed to lift seriously disabled people above the underbrush, hold them there, 18 feet off the ground, under cover, as long as they like so that they, maybe, can bag a deer, turkey, whatever. This fall those units will be available at the Fort Leonard Wood reservation for anybody who needs them. Anybody, not just army veterans.

The stands, which operate like the fork lifts on tractors, actually were donated to the post's recreation department by the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), a national military service organization. All of PVA's members have catastrophic paralysis caused by spinal-cord injuries or disease.

PVA, using money donated by various organizations ($100,000 from the Anheuser-Busch Foundation) is putting these machines on military posts around the nation. These installations comprise nearly 30 million acres. Fort Wood was the first to get two lifts because of its immense size and because of its strong recreational program.

In 1998 the Disabled Sportsmen's Access Act was passed by Congress to allow outdoor recreation such as fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, boating and camping, on military lands. PVA is working to get paralyzed people actually onto that land and into the fun.

Fort Leonard Wood, which is in southwest Missouri about 180 miles southwest of St. Louis, has long been open to public hunting. The reservation has 50,400 acres of forest, fields and scrub with a deer density of a respectable 15 per acre. Each hunting season about 900 people, mostly residents of surrounding communities, buy tags and hunt on the reservation. Typically, they bag 150 deer or so with shotguns during the state firearms season and bows during the bow season.

To hunt on the post, a person who holds a valid state deer tag must buy a $10 annual post tag, then watch a 15-minute video that explains the rules. Among the rules are those that keep hunters and soldiers doing training exercises apart. Each morning hunters call a hotline 573-596-4224 to find out which of the post's 28 units are being used for exercises.

Jim Figg, the post's community recreation director, said that the program for paralyzed hunters is new, with procedures still being worked out.

"Paralyzed hunters will have to have somebody with them all the time, of course," he said. "They can call to make reservations for the lifts. These things are on trailers, so they'll have to be close to a road. We'll put 'em in good places - like overlooking a food plot.

"The platforms are big enough to accommodate two people comfortably, with a roof and crank-out windows that allow shooting by gun, crossbow or bow."

He said people can get information on hunting on the post and on use of the lifts, by calling 573-596-4223. The post's web address is http://www.wood.army.mil.
 

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