ESCANABA - On September 13, I met with Ken Bucholtz and Jerome Bowden to show a couple of fellows from downstate what a "Wheelin' Sportsman" mobile hunting unit looked like, how it worked and what type of equipment was used to make it function.
Bob Garner, former Michigan Natural Resources Commissioner and retired co-producer of Michigan Out-of-Doors Television, now represents an organization that dedicates itself to helping others in hunting by "Passing Along The Heritage" (PATH).
Garner had heard about the Wheelin' Sportsmen project from his friend and colleague Dave Painter of Crystal Falls. He had utilized a unit to take a young wheelchair bound hunter, Robby Ivey on a bear hunt.
After viewing it, Garner took the information with him back home to the Cadillac area with hopes of seeing them developed for Lower Michigan hunters.
I headed to Sault Ste. Marie Sept. 15 with Bucholtz and Al Ettenhofer from U.P. Whitetails Association to attend an NRC meeting. It was there that Bucholtz was given recognition for his efforts with not only Wheelin' Sportsmen, but also for work he'd done with the National Wild Turkey Federation - backing programs that brought Archery in the Schools to the U.P., increasing emphasis on long term wildlife habitat goals and enhancing opportunity for youth to join the shooting sports, just to name a few.
Ken was presented with the 2011 MDNR Partner in Conservation Award, having been nominated by Al Stewart, Upland Game Bird Biologist for the agency.
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.
On Sept. 18, Bucholtz, Bowden and other volunteers from Wheelin' Sportsmen helped out at a fund raising event sponsored by John and Judy DeGrand, proprietors of Cat-Man-Dos of Escanaba. Also in attendance were some of the participants that have been given back an important part of their lives - hunting - that was taken away after suffering an injury or illness that restricted their physical ability to ambulate and handle a firearm.
Bucholtz and Bowden had brought one of the Wheelin' units for display but both had to leave by mid-afternoon so that they could take another hunter out after black bear. No matter, as those in attendance enjoyed the fellowship and raised over $3,300 at the event.
The expanding network of local volunteers included: Dave and Joyce Lewis, Larry Leonard, Tina Jandron, Mary Harris, Merry Jo Gagnier, Malary Hiney, Wally and Jeanette Viau, Mike Winkowski, Jerry Grenfell, Bob Gasperick, Jake DeGrand, Bob Miller, Dave Moersch, John "Smitty" Smith, Lisa Larsen, Brent Rochefort, The Rogers Brothers, Dave Moyle, Viau's Market, Crissy Strom, Sherri Schultz, Cathy Chevallier and Lorna Hiney.
On Sept. 24, Mary and Russ Nelson of Ford River once again presented the National Hunting and Fishing Day and Youth in the Outdoors celebration at the Great Lakes Sports and Recreation Club (GLSRC) of Escanaba along with a host of conservation organizations.
There were volunteer representatives of fishing, hunting, shooting, ATV riding, trapping, raptor bird rehabilitators and sled dog riders with a list of names too long to mention. While most everything is conducted outdoors, a cold and rainy day challenged the groups to keep the interest of youngsters and their parents.
Even with the foul weather, the attendance at the event nearly equaled last year's 300 plus kids registered.
By the way, that day Bucholtz and long time friend Barry Gasman were working the shooting range, again as volunteers and coordinators on behalf of the club facility, but once again they had to leave early, along with Jerome Bowden, to take a Wheelin Sportsman on a hunt and that is after Tom Wellman had made sure each spot was set up included baiting, like he has done for all the hunters.
On Sept. 30, Bucholtz met with MDNR U.P. Coordinator Stacy Welling and MDNR Law Enforcement Division Sgt. Darryl Shann to review some projects, but moreover to let him know that he was to receive the Volunteer of the Year Award from the MDNR for all the time he devotes not only to initiating projects, but his follow-through in maintaining those same project and events.
On Oct. 1, Bucholtz joined several organizations in presenting the Annual Women-In-The-Outdoors Program, set up to introduce the farer sex to what used to be totally male oriented.
The event is organized by Big Brother Big Sister of the Bay Area and provided disciplines of self-defense, handgun shooting, long gun and archery shooting, ATV safety skills and the newest interest outdoors - geocaching. Again, several clubs with volunteers came together to run each event for the ladies.
Bucholtz and Gasman were back on the range that day to help as well.
Thursday night, Ken was officially honored at the Annual Delta County Chamber of Commerce dinner, for his Volunteer of the Year Award.
I had called him prior to offer congratulations. He seemed a little nervous as he was expected to give a presentation to those in attendance about the virtues of volunteerism. I know he'll have insisted that the credit goes to everyone who gives their time to "pass along the heritage". I also know he'll have tried to keep it laid back by opening his talk with the line: "Well it looks like camouflage is making a comeback!"
Buck, please accept the gratitude of everyone who spends some of their time as a volunteer. We do not envy your accomplishments, we carry you on our shoulders as our champion of the outdoors.