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Providing Opportunities for Outdoorsmen with Special Needs

Hunting facilities and target-shooting events are becoming more user-friendly for outdoorsmen with special needs
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By Gary Koehler  

Jackie Franklin spent his teenage years hunting squirrels, rabbits, deer, raccoons, and other critters on or near his family's farm in north-central Alabama . He then served a four-year hitch in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era. Shortly after his return home, he was severely injured when a falling tree struck him. A wheelchair has been part of his life ever since.

Like any number of disabled individuals, Franklin was forced to change his lifestyle. Long hikes in the woods were no longer possible. Facets of everyday life that most of us take for granted presented challenges. Because he was mobility-impaired, many activities seemed out of his reach.

“One day I decided that one of the ways to get back participating in life was to get outdoors,” Franklin says. “After I had the accident and was paralyzed, I didn't do much hunting for several years. I wanted to get out and do that again.”

Click here to download handicapped-accessible duck blind plans (pdf)
Duck Blind Plans Courtesy of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commision
Detailed plans for building a handicapped-accessible duck blind are also available
on the agency’s Web site at http://www.ngpc.state.ne.us/.

“I got involved with the PVA (Paralyzed Veterans of America) in the 1990s,” Franklin continues. “They sponsored me to go to the Wheelchair Games, and I fell in love with it. I haven't stopped since.”

Over the years, Franklin competed in air rifle target shooting, weight lifting, softball, javelin, discus, ping-pong, nine-ball, and other Wheelchair Games events. He also returned to hunting. And his horizons continue to expand.

“Two years ago, Ducks Unlimited and the PVA gave us the opportunity to do this duck hunt in Arkansas ,” Franklin says. “It was the first time I had ever been duck hunting, the first time I had ever shot at a duck. Killed a banded drake mallard on my first shot. The certificate said the duck came out of Saskatoon , Saskatchewan . It was great.”

Since then, Franklin has become more and more involved with PVA activities. He participates in a number of target-shooting events. He serves as PVA national secretary. He is a member of the organization's board of directors. And this summer, at age 51, he returned to the Wheelchair Games in St. Louis as a volunteer.

“When you are confined to a chair, you learn what you can and can't do real quick,” Franklin says. “Then you start focusing on what you can do and make the best of it.”

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