Hunting & Heritage  |  10/03/2023

Hunters on Track

Photo by Nancy Anisfield

Track2wing Project enters its fifth year

By Nancy Anisfield

Mostly it’s about the dogs — And the hunt. The cool mornings, the adrenaline rush of a flush. Those wonders drive us all, but for the outdoorsmen and women of the Track2wing Project, it’s also about accessing what makes them who they are in a way few of us can understand.

Since its inception four years ago, the Anisfield-Wilson Track2wing Project has granted 45 Action trackchairs to individuals with mobility challenges who want to train and hunt with gun dogs. While the connection to the bird dog world is central to the Track2wing mission, simply getting back into the field to fish, hunt turkeys or deer, and traverse wild terrain is part of the project’s bigger picture as well.

NAVHDA member Daphne Gray ran two of her German shorthairs, Windy and Charlie, at the NAVHDA Invitational in September. Photo by Kaytlyn Heesacker

Using the trackchair isn’t as simple as a smooth ride across a tile floor. Drivers navigate snow drifts, loose sand, blowdown timber and rutted two-track roads. They must keep their eyes ahead and their minds on the ground. Batteries need charging. Guns and equipment need to be secured. But the love of the hunt, and promises made to four-legged hunting partners, turn challenges into worthy adventures.

Track2wing recipients’ range in age from their early 20s to their upper 70s. They come from all across the country — Maine to Alaska, Michigan to Texas. Some are challenged by congenital conditions or paralysis, others by cancers and disease. Despite their physical differences, Track2wing recipients have two things in common —  passion for an outdoor life, and the courage to pursue that passion despite the obstacles they face.

Matt Sather from Montana and Maverick, his pudelpointer, nailed a solid NA Prize 2 this summer.

To help us locate potential trackchair recipients, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Ruffed Grouse Society, American Woodcock Society and the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association spread the word each year when the application period opens. If trackchair recipients aren’t already members of these organizations but would like to join, Track2wing will purchase memberships. So far, seven trackchair recipients have been previous Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever members, and seven more have joined since receiving their chair. Similarly, five were already members of RGS and two more have joined, while twelve recipients already belonged to NAVHDA and five more have joined.

Stats aside, the heart of the Track2wing story comes from the hunters and dog owners. Tim Smith from Colorado is able to hunt pheasants in his home state as well as in South Dakota with his Braque du Bourbonnais, Pepper.  Ellery Worthen from New Mexico and his pudelpointer, Ullur, head into the foothills for Mearns quail and blue grouse each year. Tim Darst from Oklahoma focuses on pheasant and quail hunts with his Brittany, while also training a Chesapeake Bay retriever for waterfowl. Brandon Shaklee and his yellow Lab, Duke, have been having a blast duck hunting, and he’s also also bagged a turkey with the help of his trackchair.

Brandon Shaklee and his yellow Lab, Duke.

Success in the hunt test world of NAVHDA is also made possible through trackchairs. Dick Hodge from New York and his German shorthair, Dani, recently scored a Prize 1 on their Natural Ability Test. Matt Sather from Montana and Maverick, his pudelpointer, nailed a solid NA Prize 2 this summer. Maine’s Jim Hynson has been working his little Brittany at training clinics, and is looking ahead to testing next year. Daphne Gray from Virginia, a NAVHDA member for over 40 years, ran two of her German shorthairs, Windy and Charlie, at the NAVHDA Invitational in September.

All of these dogs are terrific, and working seamlessly with a handler in a trackchair is an additional testament to their versatility. In each case, the partnership between hunter and dog thrives — no matter the mode of transport.

The 2024 Track2wing Project application period opens January 1st. For an application or more information, email or call 802-482-2561.