MIDDLETOWN, Iowa -- A recently completed project at Iowa Army Ammunition Plant will ensure on-site hunting opportunities are now available to hunters utilizing wheelchairs.

This puts IAAAP on a short list of U.S. military installations that provide adaptive hunting for disabled Americans. It is general policy of the IAAAP recreational program “to maximize the opportunity for hunting and fishing on the installation, consistent with mission requirements and sound environmental and natural resources management practices,” according to IAAAP Regulation 420-1.

Joseph Haffner, natural resource manager at IAAAP, and leader for the project, sees this project as a critical step towards the progression of the IAAAP Hunting and Fishing program.

“It’s important to provide access for someone that’s disabled to be able to go out and enjoy the outdoors,” says Haffner. “Be it a Wounded Warrior or the guy down the street.”

Though this project is not directly connected to The Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2), it is the goal of the IAAAP staff to eventually partner with AW2. James Nelson, IAAAP civilian executive assistant, hopes that the new facility “will be utilized for Soldiers if and when resources and funding are available to hold a Wounded Warrior hunt.”

IAAAP expects the first use of the facility in September. Wheelchair bound hunters will experience hunting using an accessible hunting blind.

“It’s a 10-by-10 shed we have constructed,” explains Haffner. “We continued the path all the way around the structure so that after the animal is taken, the person in the wheelchair can actually come around to the front of the blind and participate in the retrieval of the game. We tried to make it so they have a quality experience, and they can do most of it by themselves.”

During the completion of the project, IAAAP staff jointly evaluated and revised the scope of work involved.

“Really this process started two or three years ago. The actual construction of the project was six or seven months … In the original scope of work I was looking at a gravel path and what we came up with is that it was going to be more maintenance than I could really provide. So
James and I discussed trying to make it as maintenance free as possible, and we went ahead and revised the scope of work to a concrete path. And not only a path, but a concrete parking pad,” says Haffner.

The cost of the project is approximated at $37,000. Despite difficulties in allocating funding to support such projects, the IAAAP staff intends to develop additional projects that will expand adaptive hunting facilities beyond this one on-site location.

Additional projects may include two or three places for wheel chair accessibility, and two to four accessible hunting sites for persons who are physically disabled, but not utilizing a wheelchair.

Learning from the project, the IAAAP staff concludes there is opportunity for improvement.

“We have lessons learned on this one,” says Haffner. “The parking pad needs to be bigger. A five-foot-wide path is not as big as it sounds. We need to build our shooting windows a little different. And there are other things that we had to do that we didn’t foresee doing. So, when I do another scope of work in the future to build another one of these, we’re going to change it a little bit, and the next one will be better than this one.”

However, the results of the project are clear.

Haffner stresses, “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. The first time we took the guy down there in a wheelchair and he rolled down the walkway and went into the blind for himself, that’s when you see that what you built works, and he can use it, and he’s going to have some independence in his life. It’s pretty gratifying.”