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For paralyzed hunter, quick trip to woods costs $12,000

South Boston News
Paul Allen Moody test drives a track chair.
SoVaNow.com / August 21, 2019
For more than a decade Paul Allen Moody’s life has been about hunting. Bow, powder or gun, it makes no difference to him, just so long as he can hunt what he calls the “big game” — bears, turkey and deer.

“It’s my calling,” Moody said, adding that he particularly enjoys the adrenaline rush that comes from hunting with a compound bow. He credits Dale Sturdifen of Clarksville with enlightening him on the joys of bowhunting.

Moody’s passion for the sport was severely complicated in 2011, when he was paralyzed from the waist down following a fall from a hunting tree stand. His current wheelchair limits his ability to get out in the woods in pursuit of game.

Now, friends are looking to raise $12,000 so Moody can replace his current wheelchair with a track chair. The high-tech motorized unit resembles a cross between a wheelchair and a tank. It can traverse sand, wet ground, shallow streams and thick woods, because instead of wheels, the chair is mounted on continuous tracks, like an army tank.

Bill Baker, owner of United Country Virginia Realty in Clarksville and himself an avid hunter, has organized the campaign to purchase the new chair for Moody. Both men recently attended the Virginia Outdoor Sportsman Show in Richmond, where Moody had the opportunity to test out the enhanced mobility of the camo-colored track chair.

“What I saw was unbridled joy and a look that said, ‘I got me some freedom,’” said Baker of his friend’s test drive experience.

Only through considerable effort has Moody been able to keep up his love of hunting after his accident.

It was the opening day of bow season in 2011, Moody recalled. “I scouted a place, found a nice crossing, sprayed my clothes, but forgot my safety harness.” Instead of going back for the harness, which he admits he should have done, Moody decided to set up his tree stand without any means to break a potential fall.

“I put my pack on my back, put my stand up and started to climb the tree. I was about 10 feet up when the tree started leaning. This had happened before and I was not concerned. So, I took the cotter key out to tighten the stand but did not get the key back in correctly,” he said.

Moody quickly realized he was heading toward the ground and without a harness, there was nothing to stop his fall from the tree stand. Lying on the ground looking up at the canopy of leaves, Moody said, “Everything at first felt fine. As I got my tail off the ground, it felt like something cut me.” Luckily, he had his cellphone and was able to call a friend who was hunting nearby.

He remembers being hauled out of the woods on the back of a forestry truck and life-flighted to a nearby hospital where he learned he had a pinched nerve and several broken vertebrae about two inches above his tail bone. While he says he still has sensation in both his legs, he can no longer stand or walk.

Moody hasn’t let his paralysis stand between him and his love of hunting. “I never thought my hunting days were over.”

The wheelchair he uses today to hunt poses numerous challenges. If the ground he travels is even slightly damp, the wheels will get stuck, making it impossible for him to track prey or gain access to the best hunting spots. “The first day I got the chair, I got stuck in my backyard,” Moody said with a chuckle.

With his current wheelchair, Moody admitted, he feels as if he is always on the outside looking in — not always able to wade deep into the forest.

On those rare times when he can venture through the woods, Moody sits behind a ground blind. “I’ve taken in more deer using a ground blind than I did sitting in a tree,” he explained. One such kill was a 200-pound, 13-point buck he got with his bow.

Since deer are color blind, they don’t see the ground stand and will often walk within feet or inches of Moody. A person sitting in a tree, no matter how good the camouflage, will be off-putting to a deer. They will know that something is not right and avoid the area, Moody said.

Two years ago, when Moody acquired his current electric wheelchair, he says he tried to get the insurance company to purchase a track chair. It cost about $12,000 compared to the $23,000 the company paid for the conventional chair. He was told that a track chair was not an option, and he was not able to shell out the $12,000 to buy one himself. A friend tried to help out by setting up an online fundraising campaign, but the effort faded — as did Moody’s hope of one day owning a track chair.

“There have been hunts I had to turn down,” he said ruefully.

While Moody also dabbles in coloring and calligraphy, he says nothing matches the thrill he gets from hunting. It also serves as a release for him after hours working to modify his home, making it more wheelchair accessible. He is doing much of the work himself.

Baker posted a video on social media of Moody at the Richmond sportsman show, using the track chair, and soon other hunters who know Moody made it their mission to help Moody acquire the device. “It became a battle cry,” said Baker.

A fellow hunting enthusiast and friend of Moody’s, Pearson DeJarnette, even set up a bank account at BB&T bank to collect the donations he hopes will soon roll in for Moody’s track chair.

Anyone who would like to “put Paul on tracks” — the title of a GoFundMe online fundraising campaign — can donate at either of these sites:

http://www.gofundme.com/f/

putting-paul-on-tracks-for-2019

http://www.facebook.com/donate/2587234771287533/

Or, you can make a check out to Pearson DeJarnette, and mail your donation to 1445 Oak Hill Road, Drakes Branch, VA 23937. Be sure to write “Paul Allen Moody” or “Paul’s Chair” on the memo line of the check. You can also drop off a check with Bill Baker at United Country Virginia Realty, 405 Virginia Avenue, Clarksville.

Baker has set a three-week deadline to reach the campaign’s $12,000 goal. Once that happens, he has one request of Moody — to become a goodwill ambassador for getting kids off their phones and away from their video games, and helping those with life limitations get out into the great outdoors.

Baker noted that Moody already has a platform and an audience as one who speaks about the importance of tree stand safety. “There will be people who fall out of trees or fall in the woods or get in a car wreck this year,” Baker told his friend. “You have the platform to reach out to these people and help them see that they can still have quality time outside. It is up to you to pass on the gift of the great outdoors.”

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