Manitoulin Longbeards provides assistance to handicapped man to join in annual rifle deer hunt

Tom Sasvari
The Recorder
MANITOULIN—If Tom Sagle is successful in harvesting a deer during this year’s annual deer gun hunt on Manitoulin, he can thank, at least in part, the Manitoulin Longbeards for helping him out. The Longbeards have purchased and donated a new piece of apparatus that is helping Mr. Sagle, who is a quadriplegic, with demonstrated hunting-shooting skills, to take part in the hunt.
“It is certainly nice that someone phoned and said they had something that would assist me in the hunt this year,” stated Mr. Sagle in an interview with the Recorder on Sunday. He explained that Scott Willis of the Manitoulin Longbeards had contacted him a few months ago, “and said they were interested in helping out, after having read about my taking part in last year’s hunt. He asked if there was anything I needed to make it easier for me to participate and I told him I could use a gun rest, as it holds the gun for me, and I can move it around. It bolts to my chair, and I can move it around depending on where which direction I am shooting at, and it can even be moved to different spots to hunt.”
Mr. Sagle experienced his first year as a deer hunter last year at his family’s camp. His interest in joining the group had originally prompted him to study safe gun handling, and by using special devices he is now able to take part in what has been a long-standing family tradition.
Mr. Sagle became a quadriplegic after a swimming accident at the age of 14, but that hasn’t stopped him in his goal to remain active. Always interested in some form of shooting, he had been target practicing, and had become adept enough with the firearm that he was able to hit his mark four out of six times, in order to prepare for last year’s hunt. By having the gun mounted on a hard surface, and biting down on a device to activate the trigger, he is able to shoot with a good degree of accuracy.
After participating as a non-shooting member of the hunting party two years ago, Mr. Sagle had decided to get more active last year. He enlisted the services of Ministry of Natural Resources staff member Joe Reid, who came to his residence in Sudbury to teach him safe gun handling. He taught Mr. Sagle the practical aspect of what you can do with guns and assisted him with the written part.
Living in the ICan assisted-living apartments, Mr. Sagle has 24 hour attendance care and enjoys spending time playing computer games. While visiting the Island, he has the care of the Bayshore nurses, and on the hunt he is always with a family member for support, company and good story telling.
“This all started about this time last year, when I was reading an article about Tom in The Manitoulin Expositor and the deer hunt,” Mr. Willis told the Recorder. “Reading the article, it tweaked an idea, knowing the Longbeards have access to different funding assistance programs we can use to assist in different venues. Under the Wheelin’ Sports program, we can help anyone needing assistance with their mobility, equipment and specialty stuff that makes their outdoor activities, including hunting, better.”
“I contacted Tom and his family and was told what he needed to help to have the maximum hunting experience,” said Mr. Willis. “Then we made an application for funding, and it was granted, and we purchased the LM 100 Model from the B Adaptive Equipment Company, based in the US.“
The Limited Mobility (LM) Model, “is designed for individuals with limited hand and arm movement and strength,” a website states. “The unique design of the equipment makes the weapon seem almost weightless to the person using it and allows them to have a full range of motion, up, down, and side to side. The simplicity of the LM100 allows it to hold all pistols, crossbows, rifles and shotguns, and is installed to a chair. The LM100 does not include a power trigger mechanism.”
The equipment, “basically holds the gun, or crossbow, for Tom, in the right position,” said Mr. Willis. “He is able to move it up or down, and side to side. Basically he has no limitations except for the first round and chamber, and it provides him more independence in the hunt.”
After talking to Mr. Sagle and his father, Mr. Willis took the proposal to buy the needed hunting equipment to the Longbeards executive committee, about the needed piece of equipment, “and the board was 100 percent in favour of us purchasing this for Tom,” he said. With getting the equipment through customs, and other hang-ups in getting it across the border it took basically all summer for the new equipment to arrive.”
Mr. Willis was able to present the new piece of equipment about three weeks ago. He pointed out the new equipment cost about $650 and the bulk of the funding provided, “was derived from people attending and supporting are annual hunting heritage and auction-banquet event we hold every year on the Island. By maintaining our chapter we can access monies through a provincial pot of money as can other members (of the National Wild Turkey Federation) on various projects.”
“There are programs in place for virtually everyone in the family, “targeted to events and projects for people in the outdoors, activities like the Women’s Outdoor Weekend, 4-H, gun clubs, Jakes programs for kids, sponsoring the Quality Deer Management Program coyote seminar and a lot more,” said Mr. Willis.
Mr. Sagle, who lives in Sudbury, pointed out his parents are both from Manitoulin Island. “My parents live in Little Current, and members of our family hunt at my uncle’s camp,” he told the Recorder.
While he didn’t see any deer during last year’s annual deer gun hunt on the Island, Mr. Sagle is hoping as all hunters are, of bagging a prize deer this year. “It’s great that the Longbeards provided this piece of equipment that will help me during this years hunt. I’ve been practicing with the new device and it works really well.”
“It’s amazing that 90 yards off a target he can be two inches off a bullseye,” stated Mr. Willis, who visited the hunter at his hunt camp on Sunday, to see how well he is doing with the new piece of hunting equipment.  “He basically has no limitation on the yardage he can shoot from.”
“The idea of our funding programs are to allow people to hunt, take part in conservation projects, and get people outdoors to have a maximum outdoors experience, whether it being birders taking pictures, or hunting for game, these programs are available to help everyone,” added Mr. Willis.