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Continued: Disabled hunters get a shot with Twin Cities nonprofit Capable Partners

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Last update: October 4, 2013 - 12:51 AM

As an able-bodied hunter, he had volunteered for Capable Partners. Now he needed the group’s help to feed his outdoors passion.

Today, besides participating himself, he helps coordinate outings and guides fellow hunters. He helped mentor young duck hunters on Youth Waterfowl Day, and on Sunday, he called ducks for other hunters at another wheelchair-accessible blind at the Minnesota Valley Refuge in Eden Prairie.

Many Capable Partners members live in the Twin Cities area, and providing local hunting and fishing opportunities is key to keeping them active, Guzzi said.

“It gets me out of bed everyday,’’ he said. “It’s what keeps me going.’’

Jim Hale, 68, of Plymouth, a lifelong hunter and angler, launched the group in 1982. He was inspired to help disabled people get outdoors after lying in a hospital bed himself for weeks following back surgery in 1980. “It came to me that I just needed to do something to help [disabled] men and women,’’ he said.

More opportunities

Guzzi didn’t bag a whitetail during his outing last week. “We didn’t see a deer,’’ he said.

But he plans to get out plenty more times this fall. And as leaves and temperatures drop, his chances of bagging one will improve.

For Minnesota Valley Refuge officials, the archery hunting platforms are meant to expand hunting opportunities for disabled hunters.

“The idea is to provide as much hunting opportunity as we can on the refuge,’’ said Chris Kane, wildlife refuge specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “One of the things we’re mandated to do is provide wildlife-dependent recreation, and hunting is considered one of those compatible uses.’’

There are few places disabled hunters can bow hunt for deer in the metro area.

“This seemed like a perfect fit,’’ Kane said.

Plus, in the past, officials have had to pay sharpshooters to thin deer herds on the refuge — deer that hunters would gladly take. The areas where the blinds are located generally have been closed to hunting in the past.

“They’ve been seeing deer, including some nice bucks,’’ Kane said.

So far, two deer have been taken from the three sites.

The cost to the budget-strapped Fish and Wildlife Service was minimal. Capable Partners paid for the materials for the wooden decks and gravel pathways. Hunters don’t have to be members of Capable Partners to use the blind areas, but the sites must be reserved. (Tuesday’s government shutdown closed federal wildlife refuges to all users, including disabled hunters.)

An outdoors connection

An able-bodied person must accompany a disabled hunter, and is allowed to archery hunt, too. Welsh, 47, of Champlin, a longtime friend of Guzzi’s, accompanied him last week, but didn’t hunt himself. Instead, he helped Guzzi into his wheelchair, then set up the blind for him.

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  • Dave Guzzi nocked an arrow in his crossbow as he prepared to hunt deer in a portable blind on a new platform in the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

  • Capable Partners has been helping disabled people hunt and fish for years. Dave Guzzi and an able-bodied friend, Jayme Welsh, hunted deer Thursday evening, September 26, 2013 in a new blind area within the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington. Dave Guzzi’s blind was on the new platform at the end of a short gravel trail off a road in the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington. ] JEFF WHEELER ‚Ä¢ jeff.wheeler@startribune.com

  • Capable Partners has been helping disabled people hunt and fish for years. Dave Guzzi and an able-bodied friend, Jayme Welsh, hunted deer Thursday evening, September 26, 2013 in a new blind area within the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington. Dave Guzzi and Jayme Welsh headed to the new hunting platform for an evening of deer hunting. Welsh is carrying the case that contains Guzzi's crossbow. ] JEFF WHEELER ‚Ä¢ jeff.wheeler@startribune.com

  • With his gear in his lap, Dave Guzzi wheeled the short distance from his vehicle to a hunting platform installed for disabled hunters in the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Guzzi is volunteer outreach coordinator and an active member of Capable Partners, a Twin Cities nonprofit.

  • Capable Partners has been helping disabled people hunt and fish for years. Dave Guzzi and an able-bodied friend, Jayme Welsh, hunted deer Thursday evening, September 26, 2013 in a new blind area within the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington. His gear all ready, Dave Guzzi waited for his hunting buddy, Jayme Welsh, to return with his gear to join him for an evening of bow hunting on the new platform. ] JEFF WHEELER ‚Ä¢ jeff.wheeler@startribune.com

  • For more information

    For more information about Capable Partners and the outdoor opportunities they provide, see www.capablepartners.org or call 612-220-3346.

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