Area for Disabled in VA

Discussion in 'Disabled Hunters & Shooters Forum' started by TF118, Feb 18, 2004.

  1. TF118

    TF118 New Member

    Mar 24, 2003
    I was not aware of this area intil I found this online. Thought some of you might be interested in it too.

    Wildlife area designed for sportsmen

    Hunting trail in Fauquier has handicapped access

    Gene Stanley of Hartwood grew up in Southwest Virginia, where hunting is a way of life.

    "Game offset your grocery bill a great deal," he said. "I used to do it all. If they made something to hunt with, I used it."

    But Stanley, 58, has problems with his lungs due to years of working with asbestos insulation. His legs and his back don't function well, either. Tromping through the woods the way he used to do is out of the question for him now.

    He discovered the handicapped-accessible hunting area in the C.F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area near Sumerduck two years ago and made his first hunting trip there last fall.

    "To me, it's one of the best things the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries does," he said. "It's great."

    The Hogue Tract Handicapped Accessible Trails are located off State Route 651 in Fauquier County, just past the Kelly's Ford turnoff (State Route 620.)

    The 113-acre tract is open to the public year-round, except from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31, when it's reserved for disabled hunters.

    There are four permanent hunting stands, none more than a quarter of a mile from the parking lot. They are located along wide, graveled pathways easily negotiated by those in wheelchairs or who have trouble walking.

    "We considered using asphalt," said Dan Lovelace, the Game Department's district wildlife biologist, "but it's very expensive."

    Lovelace supervises operations at the wildlife management area and is in charge of the disabled hunting area.

    The property is particularly suitable for handicapped access trails, because it's fairly flat. It's situated on top of a bluff next to the Rappahannock River.

    The area is home to turkey, squirrels, rabbit and deer. Lovelace said there is even an occasional quail wandering by.

    The area is open for hunting to permanently disabled sportsmen. Those interested in deer hunting can apply through the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' Web site, under lottery hunts. Hunting is allowed three times a week, and two hunters are given permits for each hunting day.

    If more hunters apply than there are slots available, then the names are drawn in a lottery. So far that hasn't happened, Lovelace said.

    The hunters don't have to check in with anybody and are welcome to come and go as they please.

    "It's more like a natural hunting experience for them," Lovelace said.

    They are allowed to bring a companion with them if they wish, and the companions can hunt if they hold a current hunting license.

    The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries acquired the property from Fauquier County in 1981. Although the idea for a handicapped hunting area came from department personnel, its development was a joint venture.

    "The Randy Carter chapter of Float Fishermen of Virginia was instrumental in working with us to develop the disabled-access area," Lovelace said. "They had work days out here, they donated materials for the stands."

    Other help came from the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia Department of Forestry. Federal aid came from the Wildlife Restoration fund.

    Work on clearing and building the trails started in 1996. Tom Reese of Warrenton, who has been in a wheelchair since 1984 because of a motorcycle accident, was recruited to help design the trails.

    Most of the game wardens knew Reese, who works as a dispatcher for the county's 911 service, and they suggested that he could be a trail tester for them.

    He and George Markland of The Plains, another disabled hunter, worked with the department during the design phase.

    "We tried to keep in mind different disabilities," Reese said. "People who use walkers or crutches instead of wheelchairs."

    The comfort of the disabled hunter's companion also was taken into account, he said.

    With the trails and hunting stands ready to use, the area opened in 1997.

    The hunting area is limited to the top of the bluff.

    "We thought we could have access right to the river," Lovelace said, but historic preservation regulations wouldn't let them disturb the remnants of the Rappahannock River Canal that runs through the tract along the edge of the river.

    There is a foot trail to the river, and another that winds along the riverbank downstream to Kelly's Ford, but they are not wheelchair-accessible.

    "Other times of the year [the Hogue Tract] is used by the public as a nature walk," Lovelace said.

    As his Eagle Scout project, John Wargo of Troop 1930 put up 24 signs along the trails identifying Virginia trees and wildlife habitat. Another Eagle Scout constructed simple benches along the trails.

    Most of the area is thickly wooded with a variety of forest types. A sizeable bamboo thicket and exotic ground cover are reminders that the area was once a homestead.

    The Hogue Tract is the only land in a state-maintained wildlife management area that has been developed specifically to accommodate disabled hunters.

    "I thoroughly enjoy it," said Stanley. "I wish we had more throughout the state."

    Reese said he prefers to hunt at Phelps in December, when the area is open to any disabled hunter for small game.

    "I try to take along a young guy, teach him the ropes," Reese said.

    Stanley goes for the deer. But last year, even though he had a chance to shoot a small doe, he refrained.

    "I watched it for 12 to 15 minutes," he said. "It was a young doe, maybe 60 to 70 pounds. I couldn't bring myself to do it."

    He said he didn't want to take a deer because he's the only one at his house who would eat it. That was before he remembered that there are organizations that distribute venison to the needy.

    "If I have an opportunity to get one this year, I will," he said.

    Chester A. Phelps Wildlife Management Area
    (540) 899-4169


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