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Giving disabled hunters a lift



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Oxford Parks/Rec. Director Ron Davis is extremely proud of the new mobile, self-contained, universally-accessible hunting/nature viewing stand purchased by the Raymond C. Davis Sr. Access to Recreation Endowment Fund. The fund was created in memory of his father, an avid outdoorsman who passed away in 1997. Called the Huntmaster Tower Stand, it will allow disabled individuals to hunt or observe wildlife with ease, comfort and security. It’s being stored at Seymour Lake Township Park. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
August 29, 2012 - Just like his late father, Ron Davis doesn't believe there should be any barriers that prevent folks from doing what they love in life.

That's why through his family's nonprofit organization – the Raymond C. Davis Sr. Access to Recreation Endowment Fund – he purchased a mobile, universally-accessible hunting/nature viewing stand that will allow disabled individuals to enjoy the great outdoors with ease, comfort and security.

"It's going to be open to everybody from youth to adults," said Davis, who serves as director of the Oxford Township Parks and Recreation Department.

Manufactured by the North Carolina-based Carolina Growler, Inc., the unit is called the Huntmaster Tower Stand. Detailed information about it can be found on-line by visiting www.carolinagrowlerinc.com

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The stand, which is currently being stored at Seymour Lake Township Park, features an enclosed wheelchair-accessible cabin that can hold 750 pounds – the equivalent of two to three people, plus gear.

"It's awesome. It really is," Davis said.

A dual electrohydraulic lift system quietly raises the cabin 21 feet in the air, giving hunters the perfect spot to await their prey undetected. The metal cabin, which measures 6-feet-by-5.5-feet, is lined with soundproofing material on all surfaces and features a camouflage exterior paint scheme.

"It's quiet as hell," Davis said.

A removable solar panel keeps the stand's two 12-volt deep cycle marine batteries charged while in the field.

"There's no gas involved," Davis said.

The Huntmaster is easy to transport as it comes with its own built-in, single-axle trailer.

"It's all self-contained," Davis said.

The plan is to store it in Oxford, then move it upon request to wherever it's needed or desired by a disabled hunter or nature lover.

"We'll transport it around the tri-county area," said Davis, referring to Oakland, Lapeer and Macomb counties. "It takes about 10 minutes to set it up."

The stand will only be available for hunts on private land. Davis has liability, safety and security concerns about leaving the Huntmaster unattended on public land.

Davis is working on having the Michigan Out-of-Doors TV program film a disabled hunter using the blind locally.

Details concerning how to make requests to use the stand and if there will be any sort of fee are still being worked out.

"We don't want to charge," said Davis, who noted users may be asked to cover the cost of gasoline for transport or make a donation to the Raymond C. Davis Sr. Access to Recreation Endowment Fund.

Named for Davis' father, who passed away in 1997 at age 69, the fund is used to provide matching grants to support local community efforts to purchase adaptive equipment and build accessible recreation venues across Michigan.

Davis' family decided to use $18,000 from this fund to purchase the Huntmaster Tower Stand in memory of Raymond. "He would be pretty excited about this," Davis said. "He was a diehard outdoorsman. Hunting, fishing and golfing were his passions. He loved it."

Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 21, Raymond Davis knew what it was like to live with crippling pain. "He struggled with it his entire life," Davis said. "It was terrible to watch him go through that. His mind was good, the body just didn't work."

But Raymond didn't let his debilitating condition stop him from enjoying the outdoors with family and friends.

"He never let it ruin his life or control his life," Davis said. "Toward the end of his life, we actually had to drive him to his (deer) blind in the truck and help him into it with his walker or wheelchair.

"He hunted right up to his dying day. He looked forward to the hunting season every fall. If you're not a hunter, you just don't get it. Hunters understand it."

Raymond's name and passion for the outdoors lives on not only through the endowment fund, but also through the Raymond C. Davis Memorial Golf Outing, which raises money for the fund.

The golf outing has been an annual event for the past five years during which it's raised more than $45,000.

This year's outing will take place on Friday, Sept. 14 at the Devil's Ridge Golf Club in Oxford Township and the Metamora Golf & Country Club in Metamora Township.

"I have so many golfers, I have to use two courses," Davis noted. "Last year, we had 225 or 230 golfers. It's big."

Davis is hopeful that as the golf outings continue and the endowment fund grows, his family will be able to purchase more of these unique hunting stands.

"Our goal is to eventually have four or five of these around the state of Michigan in different sections," he said.

Davis envisions keeping one stand here and having others located in the Saginaw or Bay City area, up around Ludington and maybe over by Grand Rapids to serve the Jackson County area. "We'd like to do more," he said. "Anything outdoor-related. Anything to make somebody's life easier."

To Davis, the most important aspect of doing all this is being able to "carry on my dad's legacy and make someone's life better."

"That's what life's about," he said. "I'm just happy I can do it and I'm glad my dad spent time with me in the woods and on the lakes and showed me the importance of it."

For more information about anything mentioned in this story, please contact Davis at (248) 628-1720.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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