Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, along with the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association, are helping spread the word about the Anisfield-Wilson Track2wing Project – a program to grant Action Trackchairs to individuals with mobility challenges who want to train and hunt with bird dogs. Interested in applying for a trackchair grant? Applications are currently open! For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Terry Wilson at 802-482-2561.
By Nancy Anisfield
When Chip Madren’s shot connected on a noisy, cackling pheasant, the bird still sailed out over the pond before dropping into the water. I’d swear River’s tail wagged even faster than its customary blur. Water retrieve time!
River’s owner, Terry Wilson, gave her a quick “fetch!” command. She tore through the thick switchgrass and launched airborne into the pond. Moments later she pranced up the bank toward us. I confess to being doubtful when Terry then signaled her to deliver the bird to Chip, assuming either she was programmed to retrieve only to Terry or that the strange, tracked vehicle might intimidate her. River didn’t hesitate. She trotted over to Chip, paused briefly facing the trackchair – long enough to be sure we were all admiring her sufficiently – then took another two steps and presented the bird for him to reach down and take.
Chip and his family live in Atlanta. With a couple of friends from Maine, Terry and I were down from Vermont to work our shorthairs and wirehairs on Georgia bobwhite quail and a few released pheasants. It was a perfect opportunity for us to meet Chip, who is one of the Anisfield-Wilson Track2wing Project’s trackchair recipients, and for Terry and I to finally see an Action trackchair put through its paces in the field, actually hunting.
I expected the trackchair’s maneuverability. I didn’t expect how quiet it is. Besides being able to hear a dog’s bell or have a dog hear the handler’s commands, being quiet means hunters using trackchairs can still hear all the sounds we savor in the field – a bird’s flush, a soft wind, a rooster’s cackle.
While some owners have concerns about dogs’ handling around the trackchairs, particularly if they heel or run too close to the tracks, the dogs don’t seem to mind the vehicles at all. Over the course of the day hunting with Chip, we ran five different dogs in the field, and I never saw one give more than a passing glance at the trackchair.
Tim Smith, from Denver, Colorado, hunts with his Braque du Bourbonnais, Pepper. He found the transition from wheelchair to trackchair had no impact on the dogs. “I think dogs usually adjust well to the chair. The trackchair is quiet, so that helps,” Tim said. “Pepper associates any chair with a walk or hunting. He has been around them since day one. The other dogs don’t seem to react either way, especially in the field.”
Quail hunting with the Madrens, I watched my shorthair fly past him and the trackchair no less than a dozen times as Chip cruised over the rain-rutted dirt road and navigated around gopher holes, tree stumps, and briar thickets. I’d expected great insights into the challenges of handling dogs around a trackchair. My mistake. Our dogs know their job and perform it with all the passion in their hearts. To them, the trackchair is just an extension of the hunter, like a shotgun or e-collar transmitter – tools that when handled with finesse simply spell more success and a heck of a lot of fun.
The Track2wing Project grants Action trackchairs to individuals with mobility challenges who want to train and hunt with bird dogs. Track2wing would like to thank Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever for their help spreading word about this project. For more information, contact email@example.com.