Lifting spirits--new equipment supports handicapped hunters at Fort Rucker
Mark Yoakum, Fort Rucker ODR facilities manager, operates a handicapped tree stand the organization received in January. The stand allows handicapped hunters to shoot from up to 18 feet off the ground.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Retired CW3 Tony Vilardo embraces hunting as an opportunity to spend time with friends and enjoy the outdoors.

Vilardo, who has multiple sclerosis, has not participated in the sport on post in several years, but that may change soon since Outdoor Recreation received its first handicapped tree stand in January.

"We've always been wanting something to serve handicapped hunters," said John Clancy, ODR business manager. "It's perfect because the handicapped hunter can control it himself. He can access it by wheelchair."

The 5- by 7-foot stand sits on a small trailer complete with controls outside and inside. The stand raises up to 18 feet, allowing hunters who otherwise were limited to the ground to gain a better perspective.

"Right now, I'm hunting on the ground in a wheelchair. It'll give me a better field of view (to) see more animals," Vilardo said.

Mark Yoakum, ODR facilities manager, said he chose this particular model for its maneuverability. Most stands came on trailers that were 16- to 18-feet long, significantly longer than Fort Rucker's model.

ODR officials hoped to use the stand during the recent deer hunting season, which ended Jan. 31, but the stand did not arrive in time.

ODR staff wanted to study the stand's operations before allowing customers to use it, which is why the stand will not be in full use until October, the beginning of next deer season.

"We want to get familiar with it. We don't foresee any problems, but we want to train individuals properly. We want them to know the safety precautions," Clancy said.

Yoakum said ODR staff will develop a standard operating procedure before the beginning of next deer season.

The stand will be set up in a Training Area 11 location but can be moved at the request of handicapped hunters, which includes Wounded Warriors, Clancy said.

"It's for Wounded Warriors. It's designed for amputees. It's a step in the right direction to support them," he said.

Clancy said demand has not been high for the stand, but that may change when people learn it is here.

"It could be more than we can handle, but that's a good thing. It's justification for getting more equipment," he said.

For now, Vilardo looks forward to the opportunity to utilize the new shooting house.

"It's a great opportunity for Soldiers on post. I've got to come and check it out," he said.

For more information about the stand, call ODR at 255-4305.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16