Thinking about an upcoming hunt is sometimes the only thing getting us through our week and to that day. As we sit in front of a computer, work away at a car engine, or deal with a customer whose ears, we swear, are just for decoration, we have that hunt at the back of our minds. Soon we’ll get to traverse through the woods, splash through a creek and find the perfect spot to tag whatever game we’re after. But can you imagine not being able to do this because you’re confined to a wheelchair, are a double amputee, or unable to control your motor skills? The caring people at Buckmasters American Deer Foundation (BADF) didn’t like imagining that either, and since the early 90’s they have helped to conduct hunting and outdoor opportunities for challenged individuals.
Disabled Hunter Services of BADF was established in 1993 after BADF combined forces with Alabama Handicapped Sportsmen, an organization founded by David Sullivan, a disabled hunter himself, whose mission was to increase the opportunities for hunters with disabilities.
David Sullivan of BADF developed a trailer, the Quincey Assault Vehicle, to safely transport those with disabilities to hunting locations. Photo courtesy of Outdoor Alabama.
“Since we started running these challenged hunting programs over the years, we’ve seen more states adopt special accommodations for handicapped hunters,” Sullivan said. With 100 BADF chapters across the country, and growing, they’re hoping one day every state will help to cater to the needs of challenged hunters.
How does BADF assist and meet the needs of disabled hunters? Well in Alabama alone, where BADF is headquartered, they have 17 facilities that are wheelchair accessible and have motor vehicle access. For those not within the Alabama area, disabled hunts are organized throughout the country on public or private lands.
Stephen Ayhens, a disabled Marine, tries out his new “tank chair” on a 2014 Buckmasters Life Classic Hunt. Photo courtesy of Outdoor Alabama; www.outdooralabama.com.
BADF assists hunters through their chapters. They raise funds and host disabled hunts for challenged sportsmen and women in their communities at no charge! BADF also works with their sponsors to create equipment grants—such as a mechanical gun rest—available for qualified disabled hunters. Since 1996, they have awarded 66 grants and hope to provide many more.
Then there’s BADF’s Life Hunts. Created in 1998, Life Hunts offers hunting trips for critically ill and extremely disabled children and young adults. Other organizations within this type of philanthropic service do not grant hunting-, shooting- or archery-related wishes. A child looking at an unfavorable future due to a disability or illness deserves to have their hopes fulfilled, and if that hope is a hunt or an outdoor adventure, BADF will work hard to safely accommodate their wish.
Carrie Mason happily holds up her buck during the Buckmasters Life Hunt. Her guides Craig Nelson (left) and Randall Higgins (right) tracked down Carrie’s deer. Photo courtesy of BADF.
When you’re thinking about your next hunt, and how happy and serene it makes you feel, be sure to remember our disabled hunting comrades. They have just as much of a desire to hunt, just not the accessibility. “We exist to create those opportunities for disabled hunters,” Sullivan said. “We just want to be sure that everybody knows that there are people out there to help them.” If you’d like to join or start a BADF chapter in your community please follow this link.
How could Noah Walters (center) not smile, he bagged the first buck of the Buckmasters Hunt! His helpful guides: Jake Goodin (right) and Matt Light (left), former All-Pro lineman of the New England Patriots. Photo courtesy of BADF.