Immediately following their monthly meeting in Knoxville last week, eight of the 13 Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission members from all across the state took off their suits and ties, headed straight for Chattanooga and set to work creating a brand new hunting opportunity for wheelchair-bound waterfowlers. This is a photo gallery of their efforts and the new hunting opportunity.
The North Chickamauga Wildlife Management Area is not the absolute best duck hunting area, but when the weather and migration patterns line up just right, hunters can have some fun. However, wheelchair-bound hunters couldn't reach the best spots until now. On the Varner Tract of North Chickamauga WMA, the wildlife agency has created a gravel access road that leads directly to a wheelchair-accessible duck blind overlooking a flooded swamp. (Photo: Richard Simms)
Last Friday, wildlife commissioners took up hammers and paintbrushes to help put the finishing touches on the blind built by area manager Greg Atchley and others. Members of the Chattanooga-area chapter of Ducks Unlimited will be following up to add brush and camouflage. (Photo: Richard Simms)
The blind is high and dry now but is situated to be accessible even during flood conditions. Wildlife officials have not finalized regulations; however, they expect to allow wheelchair-bound hunters to use this blind on days other than the regular hunt days (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays), when other hunters can visit. They say one nonhandicapped hunter will be able to accompany each wheelchair-bound hunter. (Photo: Richard Simms)
The swamp where the special duck blind sits is flooded naturally, mostly thanks to beavers. However, TWRA managers say they will add a water-control structure to ensure the area remains flooded. (Photo: Richard Simms)
In an interesting role reversal, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Executive Director Ed Carter stood by and supervised as his bosses, including wildlife Commissioner David Watson and others, did the work. (Photo: Richard Simms)
Those on hand for Friday's work party were (back row, from left to right) wildlife Commissioners Jeff Griggs, Jeff McMillin, Trey Teague, David Watson, Tom Rice, Jim Bledsoe, Harold Cannon and Bill Cox; as well as (front row, from left to right) TWRA staff Scott Shelby, Fred Majors, Kirk Miles, Marc Lipner, Ed Carter, John Mayer and Bernie Swiney. (Photo: Richard Simms)