Handicapped hunters are making inroads to decent hunting opportunities, thanks to an expanding program involving two timberland companies, national forests and the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council.
Hunters with certified disabilities can apply for access to hundreds of miles of otherwise closed roads on the Colville National Forest and Idaho Panhandle forests as well as Forest Capital Partners lands. Inland Empire Paper Company also participates, although the road access is not exclusive to handicapped hunters.
Special platforms are being built by INWC volunteers to accommodate hunters in wheelchairs at specially selected sites.
After a test project on private land, the council secured a $5,000 grant from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department to build and install 10 platforms, said club member Larry Carey.
Each platform requires 30 hours of volunteer labor plus the installation time, he said.
Four platforms will be sited beyond locked gates on the Colville Forest, which has seven road systems open to handicapped access, said Jim McGowan, forest wildlife biologist.
Nearly 300 hunters signed up for the disabled-hunter access program last year, he said.
“No system is perfect, and there were a few hunters disappointed with the number of other disabled hunters who came in on the roads last year, especially on opening day,” McGowan said.
“But most of those surveyed said that seeing other people did not interfere with hunt quality.”