LACHINE - Not content to merely overcome paraplegia and reclaim a hobby for himself, Lachine resident Rick Pavley opened his hunting camp to other handicapped hunters this year to give them a chance at bagging their own bucks.
An avid hunter since age 11, Pavley lost the use of his legs following back surgery in 2005 and moved from Detroit to Lachine shortly thereafter to have his once-temporary hunting property made handicap accessible with ground-level blinds, smoother trails, ramps to the house, and other basic accommodations. As it happened, Pavley's wheelchair robbed none of his enthusiasm for the sport and gave him an appreciation for his own opportunity to continue doing what he loved. Inspired by the encouragement of his wife, Catherine, Pavley accepted an offer from his niece's husband, Fred Cherry of Ohio, to gather sponsors and turn the camp into a haven for hunters with disabilities.
"A few years back we were talking about how blessed we were. God has blessed us with all this stuff, and we wanted to offer other people that were in wheelchairs an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in comfort that they otherwise wouldn't get to do," Pavley said. "We basically didn't want it to cost them too much ... because we know medical expenses can be pretty high, because they're high for us, so basically we got some sponsors to help offset some of their costs. Not all of them, but a majority of them. Maybe in the future, we can get enough sponsors that the people that come here to hunt could do it for free."
News Photo by Andrew Westrope
Twenty-year-old Devon Lyons of Sulphur Springs, Ind., prepares a practice shot with a mouth-operated gun mount from Be Adaptive Equipment before going hunting with his father, Darrell, left, and brother, Derek, at Pavley’s Paradise in Lachine on Friday. Camp owner Rick Pavley opened his handicap-accessible property to other wheelchair-bound hunters this year and acquired several sponsors to help accommodate them.
Cherry set up a Facebook page, contacted various media outlets, gathered sponsors, and started looking for participants, and the camp welcomed one of its first scheduled clients on Thursday: 20-year-old Devon Lyons of Sulphur Springs, Ind., who has been wheelchair bound since birth and a hunter since childhood, though a genetic condition makes him unable to fire a gun without assistance. The main sponsor, a husband and wife machine shop in Columbia City, Ind., called Be Adaptive Equipment, donated a $1,650 shooting mount that allows Lyons to shoot with his mouth and a scope camera system to help him aim. Other sponsors like Classic Pistol, Doc's Deer Farm and Scents, Invite X-treme Wildlife System, and The Natural Order Television have provided equipment, discounted lodging, discounted meat processing, and other services, and Pavley said he's just getting started. The camp, "Pavley's Paradise," currently has four handicap blinds and a fifth under construction.
"We want to expand into bow hunting too, because that way we can get more people out here," he said. "We've had two other hunters here that were not wheelchair bound but they were limited in their walking, and they've already hunted out here."
Lyons said his Friday morning hunt was slow due to wind conditions, but he headed out again in the afternoon and intended to do so again Saturday. He found out about Pavley's camp only weeks ago, just before rifle season started, and said he would love to return every year.
"I was surprised. When I found out, I was excited and just ready to go," he said. "I was counting down the days pretty quickly."
For Pavley, the pleasure was mutual.
"We couldn't be happier with his family that came up here. We shared Thanksgiving dinner with them, and they just have been wonderful people," he said, hoping to recruit more hunters in the near future. "We definitely want to get the opportunity for those who are disabled to enjoy the outdoors."
To ask questions or schedule a hunting slot, email Pavley at firstname.lastname@example.org and include something about disability hunting in the subject line.
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5693.