When you think about hunting in the Saskatchewan wilderness, the words “wheelchair accessible” don’t really come to mind. But that could change in the near future.
The Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation (SWF) is working on a project to buy a specially designed accessible ATV to improve hunting access for people in wheelchairs.
Bobbie Cherepuschak has spina bifida. While he can walk a little bit, he has used a wheelchair to get around his whole life.
Growing up in Regina, he always loved listening to his dad’s hunting stories and decided to go for his hunters’ safety course as a teenager.
“One day I said to my mom and dad ‘you know what, I’m getting sick of just hearing these stories, I want to experience it for myself,’” he said.
After getting his hunting licence, Cherepuschak also applied for a special permit from the province to allow him to shoot from a vehicle.
“As soon as I seen that deer drop in my scope in my gun, I was hooked right then and there,” he said.
Since then, he has been granted three consecutive five-year permits to hunt from his truck. He even got his dream job working at Cabela’s, an outdoor sporting goods store.
He said he’s fielded a lot of questions from customers wondering how he goes about hunting. He explained he always goes out with two or three other people and mainly sticks to farmland around southern Saskatchewan.
He described his hunting adventures as “a thrill,” but said he’d love to explore further.
He said he’s run into snags on a few journeys further afield, including a 2016 moose-hunting trip.
“When I was in Hudson Bay that ATV would have been just perfect, the ideal vehicle for me,” he said, explaining the challenges of the particularly muddy terrain he encountered.
“I had to get my dad and my neighbor to carry me from the back of the truck to the cabin where we were staying because I would have been stuck in my wheelchair and they would have had to pull me anyways.”
Despite those limitations, he described the scenery as spectacular, with trees as far as he could see. With the option to rent out an accessible ATV, Cherepuschak said he believes he could explore and hunt on more difficult terrain.
“It’s a dream to have that happen,” he said.
Cherepuschak said getting his own accessible ATV was out of his price range, with the units costing between $30,000 and $40,000. He said the option to have one to share province-wide could provide opportunities for himself and others.
“It would be so much fun to get out and explore places that I’ve never been to.”
Cherepuschak said he’d love to share the adrenaline rush he gets from hunting with other friends who use wheelchairs.
“I’ve come across a lot of guys that are in wheelchairs that are hunters or who want to be able to start hunting,” Cherepuschak said.
Two years ago he started up a Facebook group called 306 Disabled Hunters which has grown to nearly 1,100 members.
The SWF is also exploring the option of offering the ATV to students who may want to join class field trips for hikes.
Darryl Crabbe with the SWF explains they have already invested a lot into providing wheelchair accessible platforms for fishing, and hunting seems to be a logical next step.