Milo’s Ken Davis, my late father-in-law, was an active outdoorsman who loved to hunt deer. Disabled by MS at midlife, he fought courageously to hunt in spite of his infirmity. When possible, he hunted from a wheelchair. Once the state permitted him to hunt from a parked vehicle. A few times he actually got to a remote hunting camp by being carried on the back of a hunting companion.

Most outdoorsmen, or hunters, who become disabled like Ken Davis, still want to pursue their passion, if at all possible. There are some remarkable, inspiring stories about chronically disabled outdoorsmen who, through courage and sheer grit, found a way back into the woods in spite of their handicap. Thankfully, there are an increasing number of organized programs throughout the country specifically created to help get wounded veterans and other disabled outdoorsmen back in the outdoors. One that I am familiar with is, in fact, called Get Back Outdoors.

Get Back Outdoors is the brain child of Blaine Anthony host of the television program North American Safari and Renegade Wheel Chair founder John Rackley, who first broke ground by simply inviting Sgt. Major Patrick Corcoran, a wounded, disabled Afghanistan war veteran, on a Florida wild hog hunt. The hunt was a success for all involved. So much so that what followed was the Get Back Outdoors program. The New England based program is growing and is being overseen by Larry Gardner, a retired physical therapist from New Hampshire, Larry Osmer, a North American Safari Pro Staff member and writer from Boston, and John Rackley from Eliot, Maine. Rackley’s wheel chair, which he designed specifically for disabled outdoorsmen, is an amazing innovation. It could only have been designed and brought to fruition by a man like Rackley, who knows first hand the challenges confronting a disabled outdoorsman trying to negotiate uneven terrain.

One goal of Get Back Outdoors (GBO) is to raise funding to underwrite the cost of these Renegade Wheel Chairs, which are provided to deserving, physically challenged outdoorsmen who want to get back in the hunt. This summer GBO held a first-of-a-kind golf tournament fundraiser at the Outlook Country Club in Berwick. GBO President Larry Osmer indicated that the hope is to make this an annual event. Proceeds from that tournament and others will be used to purchase Renegade Wheel chairs that can then be donated.

GBO is working closely with Maine Guide Bob Howe from Pine Grove Outfitters. Howe has been conducting a hunting program for the disabled from his camps in Bingham for some time now. In fact, as a result of the Berwick golf event, GBO was able to purchase a Renegade Wheel chair, which has been donated to Pine Grove Outfitters for use by that organization’s disabled clients.

As you might expect, a disabled hunter may need some retraining in safe gun handling and marksmanship. To this end, GBO is also working with the South Berwick Rod and Gun club, which is providing NRA certified instructors who have experience reintegrating disabled war vets and others into the outdoor scene.

As a lifelong hunter and passionate outdoorsman who has been blessed with mobility and good health, I can only imagine what a blow it is for an avid hunter to find himself “grounded” by an infirmity. Being able to get back outdoors after a life-changing physical setback would, I suspect, make the hunting experience all that more precious.

If you are a disabled hunter trying to get back outdoors, or if you simply want to learn more about this worthy program, check out the website at www.getbackoutdoors.org.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] and his new book is “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Founders of the Get Back Outdoors program are Larry Osmer (top left), Larry Gardner (right) and John Rackley who invented the Renegade Wheel Chair. ( Photo by Diane Reynolds)

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