Cape Hatteras National Seashore builds park’s first wheelchair accessible duck blind

Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers its first wheelchair accessible duck hunting blind just 200 feet from N.C. 12

A new duck blind built wide and sturdy stands in prime waterfowl habitat just 200 feet from N.C. 12 and a paved parking lot.

The structure made from treated wood is the first wheelchair accessible blind at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and among the few available anywhere.

“It was just something we needed to do,” said Lynn Edwards, Bodie Island district ranger for the park.

The Outer Banks lies within the Atlantic Flyway where waterfowl travel south for the winter after breeding in northern prairie ponds. Thousands of ducks and geese feed in the fields and sounds of eastern North Carolina. Waterfowl hunting is a long-held tradition.

But duck hunting is not an easy sport for anybody and is especially tough for people in wheelchairs, said Kirk Thomas, executive director and founder of Outdoors Without Limits, a nonprofit that organizes hunts for people with disabilities.

“I applaud them for doing this,” said Thomas, who himself hunts from his wheelchair. “We don’t do a lot of duck hunts because we don’t really have a place to take them.”

Hunters shoot from blinds on shore or on open water accessible only by boat. Shore blinds typically sit along the bank with room for one or two people. The blind is covered with pine limbs or other vegetation as camouflage. Hunters set out several decoys near the blind and hope the game flies close enough to shoot.

It can be a hard task to haul a shotgun, ammunition and a set of decoys through a trail in the marsh to a blind.

The park’s new blind is very accessible.

A 200-foot long, six-foot wide boardwalk leads up to it. The walkway floor is made from concrete to better endure the elements. The covered shelter is 10 feet by 15 feet with a wide view of the pond. It cost $171,280 to build.

The structure will also serve as a wildlife viewing area outside of duck hunting season, which begins Dec. 14.

Construction of wheelchair accessible duck blinds on public lands has been on the increase, but remains rare, said Andi Cooper, spokeswoman for Ducks Unlimited, a national conservation nonprofit.

“It’s infrequent,” she said.

Ducks are get used to traffic passing nearby, Cooper said. Ducks will come as long as there is food and the hunting pressure in one spot is not too intense, she said.

The park operates 21 waterfowl hunting blinds made available by a lottery held at 4:30 a.m. daily at the Whalebone Junction Information Center on N.C. 12 at the north entrance of the park near Nags Head.

Hunters must have the required state license and federal duck stamp to use the park facilities.

Jeff Hampton, 252-491-5272, jeff.hampton@pilotonline.com

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