Hunting in the Oahe Downstream Recreation Area is a bit more accessible to people with disabilities thanks to two Girl Scouts.
Combining their Gold Award projects, Sydney McLaury and Molly Tschetter, seniors at T.F. Riggs High School and long-time Girl Scouts, constructed two handicap-accessible hunting blinds.
The blinds are quite an upgrade over the existing ones, McLaury said.
“The new ones we built are handicap accessible,” she said. “They have a ramp going up to them.”
The Gold Award is the highest award in Girl Scouting, similar to the rank of Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts.
The girls originally had separate projects, but decided to tie them together.
They said they got the idea from one of their teachers, Greg Stluka.
“Because we are both very active hunters, he thought it would be a good project for us,” McLaury said.
The girls split the project, with McLaury constructing the blinds and Tschetter focusing on creating a wildlife identification guide that is placed in the station, as well as refurbishing an existing blind to make it a wildlife viewing blind.
Her viewing guide identifies more than a dozen animals in the area complete with pictures.
“We screwed it in and it is laminated, colored and illustrated,” Tschetter said.
The two new hunting blinds are not only an upgrade for accessibility, but also in protection from the elements.
“They are enclosed,” McLaury said. “The other ones weren’t enclosed so the hunters weren’t able to stay out as long.”
Between planning, applying for a receiving a grant from the Turner Foundation and building the blinds, the project took about a year. It culminated with the girls volunteering their time for the Accessible West River Firearms Deer Hunt. Aside from the unit set aside for people who use a wheelchair, there is an additional event where chosen applicants can hunt with volunteers from established blinds in a forested area in the Oahe Downstream Recreation Area.
The girls also had help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which paid for some of the girls’ out-of-pocket expenses. They said they also wanted to thank Mike Stanley, with the Corps and their troop leaders Jodi Hartmann and Carrie Tschetter for their help.