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Wheelchair Hunting

Autumn is here, and along with cooler weather and orange leaves comes the hunting season.

This post is about a project done in Norway to encourage and include people with reduced mobility in hunting. In addition, we look at some health benefits of being outdoors.

Hunting is one of our oldest traditions. Humans were hunters and gatherers for thousands of years. In today's modern society, hunting is first and foremost a leisure activity and represents nature experiences.

According to the Swiss hunting association JagdSchweiz, there are around 30'000 registered hunters in Switzerland. Deer, red deer, wild boar, fox and badger are some of the species you can hunt. JagdSchweiz argues that hunting is necessary to keep a long-term balanced diversity of species, and a way to preserve and maintain the habitats for native wildlife.

Hunting for everyone

The Norwegian Association of Disabled together with the Norwegian Association of Hunters and Anglers started a two-year pilot project called Hunting for everyone in 2016. It was inspired by a similar 2012 project that took place in Sweden. The main goal of the Norwegian project was to facilitate and promote the possibilities of hunting and outdoor activities for people with disabilities.

teilnehmer am projekt jagen für alle

The participants of the Hunting for everyone project. (Source: https://jaktogfiske.njff.no/jakt/2019/01/hjortejakt-rullestol)

With some adjustments, the participants were able to enjoy outdoor experiences which otherwise would be difficult to have. Before their first hunt, however, they all had to complete the training and pass the hunting proficiency test.

Various equipment and tools help people with reduced mobility to participate in hunting and outdoor activities. There are several motorized vehicles designed for going off-road and further in the terrain. Although participants got to test off-road wheelchairs during the project, it’s not yet legal to hunt from a motorized vehicle in Norway. However, it is in fact possible to use regular wheelchairs for hunting as long as the hunting area is easy to access.

jagen im geländegängigen rollstuhl

Off-road wheelchairs make it easier to get around in rough terrain. (Source: https://www.dam.no/prosjekter/jakt-for-alle/)

Guro Konstanse Frønsdal, who participated in this project, stated,

“It gives me a huge sense of freedom just being out in nature. I’m grateful to be a part of such a nice and welcoming social environment. It’s also easier to join in with others who are in the same situation as me.”

The manager of the project, Leif Arild Fjellheim, said to the Norwegian magazine Jakt & Fiske,

“It has been a pleasure to be part of this project. It showed what’s possible for wheelchair users with relatively simple and affordable tools.”

The Norwegian Association of Disabled concluded that the project was very successful. It gave unique insights and is a good base for future work with outdoor activities for people with mobility impairments.

Nature and health

There is usually a lot of downtime while hunting, where one is waiting for the prey and can simply enjoy the nature and silence. Even though the hunt isn’t always successful, there are many benefits of being outdoors.

According to an experimental study conducted in Japan, spending time in the forest – called “forest bathing” in the study – could benefit people in many different ways. The study showed that the forest environment could decrease blood pressure, lower heart rate and promote lower concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol. Another review study also showed similar results.

wald

“Forest bathing” has many benefits. (Source: JuniperPhoton on Unsplash)

Furthermore, the University of Michigan conducted a study on cognitive effects of interacting with nature. They compared one group who walked in natural environments with one group who walked in urban environments. The results of the experiment demonstrated a greater benefit of short time memory in those who spent time in natural environments compared to the other group. Another experiment in this study showed that simply looking at pictures of nature can produce more cognitive improvements compared to looking at pictures of urban areas.

Overall, there are many good reasons for spending time outdoors. Being out in nature can benefit health in several ways, such as decrease blood pressure, decrease production of stress-hormones and improve cognitive functioning.

If you would like to know more about hunting in Switzerland, have a look at Jagd Schweiz’s website or Facebook page. A famous Swiss hunter in a wheelchair is the former ski star Silvano Beltrametti, like he reports in this interview.

What do you think about hunting? What kind of outdoor activities do you enjoy doing?

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