Back in September my mom was in Tomahawk, Wi for the Fall Ride. She brought back a brochure about a non-profit organization called Little Lakes Memories Inc. This organization helps people with disabilities to be able to hunt in a safe and accessible hunting preserve, at no cost. I had already planned on blogging about accessible hunting, so this was truly a great find!
We emailed Dick Busha, one of the owners of Little Lakes Ranch to set up a meeting to find out more about what they have to offer the disabled community. He emailed us back and we set up a time to head out to Irma, a small community north of Merrill, WI.
On a rainy Tuesday in late September, I rolled into Little Lakes Ranch, a 100-acre hunting preserve. We spotted deer right away, including an albino deer! Dick had us follow him to the lodge as it was wheelchair accessible and his house is not! The hunting lodge is a huge two story beautiful building equipped with a ramp that could also act as a maze! The lodge is in the midst of beautiful serenity, surrounded by bright green grass and deer grazing so close the building.
The lodge reminds me so much of my Cousin Rita’s house with the handmade freshness of the wood, and the calm, quiet nature. I’m not much of an outdoorsman, however, I instantly felt relaxed as we settled down to talk with Dick. I think it was the combination of the surrounding and the company, as Dick is one of those warm, friendly people who instantly make you feel at home.
Like I said earlier, the lodge is two stories. A ramp takes you to a large deck that overlooks the preserve. The sliding glass door is wide enough for my chair to comfortably fit through. The lower level has its own entrance. I was not able to check out the lower level because of construction, but my mom checked it out and took pictures. The main level has a fireplace, large living room and kitchen. There are bedrooms in the loft area.
The lower level is equipped with a fully accessible bathroom and shower! There is a large bedroom with a huge bed! There is also a living room and kitchen in the lower level. The entrance is through a set of doors that lead right outside. Both levels are decorated to give you that up-north cabin feeling. I have really missed that!
Little Lakes Ranch is a fully functioning hunting preserve and lodge. The non-profit, Little Lakes Memories Inc., was set up to open this little piece of paradise to disabled individuals and their families to enjoy hunting adventures, campfires, and just the outdoors in general. Dick let us know that you don’t have to hunt, a disabled person and their family can come just for a weekend getaway. The lodge has many large windows which look out over the preserve. As we sat there, the deer could be seen grazing nearby. I can’t begin to tell you how relaxing this was, even if I was there for “business”. Little Lakes Memories Inc. in cooperation with Little Lakes Ranch, give families a break from the realities of being disabled. They have literally removed all the barriers that prevent a disabled individual from hunting.
If you partake in a hunt, Little Lakes Memories Inc. and Little Lakes Ranch, not only provide the land, they provide the equipment necessary to participate. I asked Dick what they could do to help someone that doesn’t have use of their arms. He said there are weapons with mouth tabs available otherwise, they could attach a straw device and you could blow through the straw to fire the gun, it is called a “blow and fire” gun. They could even mount a gun to your chair if need be. Little Lakes Memories Inc. also has a track chair, which is basically an off-road power chair! I featured both of these pieces of equipment in my last blog, Adaptive Hunting. Dick said that they would do “anything it takes” to make sure the hunt happens. Whatever needs to be built will be built! That is the kind of guy Dick is, but he assured us that he “gets more out of it than the participants”.
Speaking of participants, Dick Busha told us about several of the hunters they have hosted recently. Listening to the stories was very touching. Little Lakes Memories Inc. has recently hosted several WWII vets, a young teenager who is losing his sight, an Afghanistan War vet, and even a young lady who is a quadriplegic. Again, there was no cost to these individuals or their families. Dick showed us several journals where guests write about their experience.
The licensing of the deer preserve allows them to set the hunting season. They usually host hunts September thru November. Dick explained that hunting in the summer is not feasible due to the warm temps. They manage the deer herd carefully. Deer that are not available for hunting are tagged. There are several tamed deer on the property as well. Little Lakes Ranch has a very unique resident, an antlered doe! Dick told us that this only occurs in 1 out of 300,000 does! She decided to come to the lodge so we could see for ourselves!
Hunting can be a dangerous sport, especially for the disabled. Little Lakes Ranch takes this risk very serious. They only schedule one hunt on any given day. This makes the hunting excursion quite safe. The preserve is fenced in so there is no need for specialized clothing like blaze orange. Because of the preserve licensing you’re not required to show or carry an individual hunting license. Many disabled individuals struggle on a fixed income; Little Lakes Memories Inc. has successfully removed that financial barrier.
Little Lakes Memories Inc. in cooperation with Little Lakes Ranch are looking to start a fishing program for the disabled! They will be researching specialized equipment to allow those with limited mobility to reel in a catch! As mentioned in my previous blog, I am a Hunter by name only! However, I love to fish. My mom takes me fishing and we have never caught a fish! I am looking forward to returning to Little Lakes Ranch and learning the tricks of the trade.
While we were there Dick offered the lodge for a respite weekend for my mom and I. This, my readers, is what you call a no-brainer! I can imagine sitting on the deck watching the deer, sitting by a campfire making s’mores, or just sitting in the cozy lodge in front of the fireplace. Most importantly, my mom can take care of me as easily as she does at home. This allows both of us to have a respite together!
I should mention that Dick does not do all of this on his own. The lodge was his daughters vision and is owned and operated by her and her husband. He told us that he had a much simpler design in mind, but she had a different idea! Trust me when I say, her vision is incredible! In addition to Dick and his family, there are several others that keep Little Lakes Memories Inc. rolling: Stan Nowak, Steve Plautz and Ken Sullivan all work hard to give this incredible opportunity to many individuals.
Little Lakes Memories Inc. relies on donations and support from local businesses to continue to do the work they do. In fact, Wausau Homes, was donating time and materials to make improvements on the lodge during our visit. There is a donation page on their website as well. Throughout the year, several fundraisers are held. They also have a Facebook Page to keep you updated on all the progress and the events. Additionally, Little Lakes Ranch has a website, which you can book hunting and lodging weekends.
If you know someone who is disabled and would like to try hunting or to hunt once again, please contact Little Lakes Memories Inc. All the information is on their website!
To all the hunters, both abled and disabled, good luck and be safe!
Until next time keep rollin’ and keep smilin’!
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