Story County Conservation (SCC) has expanded its public hunting opportunities to include special, reservable access to youth and persons with disabilities, beginning this fall.
A new, accessible blind for archery hunting is making its debut just in time for the opening of archery season at SCC’s Sleepy Hollow property, located just north of Ames, IA.
Sleepy Hollow includes 17 acres of public land nestled along the South Skunk River, providing a mix of quality habitat due to its woodland, small prairie, and its proximity to the river. The Sleepy Hollow Addition was recently added in 2019, tacking on 15 additional acres to the original four with the idea of providing increased hunting access in mind.
The idea for this hunting blind, in part, originated from SCC’s focus on providing services to those audiences that may potentially be underserved, said SCC Parks Superintendent Ryan Wiemold.
We recognized this need in our county and set forth to prioritize providing those services,” Wiemold said. “We wanted to offer a place where these specific participants can get out and enjoy the hunting experience, without the added challenge of competing with other hunters on public lands.
The new, ADA accessible blind will be open for reservations throughout the 2023 hunting season, in specific windows from September to January 2024. Reservations for hunting are limited exclusively to persons with disabilities, as well as youth hunters 15 years old or under. All youth must be accompanied by an adult of at least 21 years old, who possess a valid hunting license.
Hunting at Sleepy Hollow requires a permit to be obtained from SCC and all State of Iowa Game Laws apply. Reservations are available in four-day blocks from Thursday to Sunday and groups may make a maximum of two reservations per season.
This new hunting opportunity aligns SCC’s efforts to address barriers and enable underserved user groups to participate in activities—and enjoy the benefits of those activities— on an equal basis. Accommodations can be made for an SCC mentor to provide assistance for the hunt or harvest, when planned in advance. Mentorship will be available as SCC staff resources allow.
This opportunity was made possible with the help of several partners in the community. The Ames Izaak Walton League stepped up to help purchase the ADA accessible blind and trailer that will be used on property. Other donors that contributed toward the project and land acquisition include Story County Pheasants Forever, Big Bluestem Audubon Society, Outdoor Alliance of Story County, ITC Midwest, and Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.
Paul Readhead, representative of Ames Izaak Walton League, said his organization was glad to be a part of bringing this project to life.
“We received a substantial memorial donation and wanted to go outside our organization to contribute to a larger community project,” said Readhead. “I contacted SCC to see what projects were currently in need of funds and we were thrilled when we were told about the opportunity to help fund this accessible blind.”
SCC offers public hunting on roughly 2,000 of its over 3,500 acres of public parks and spaces countywide. During deer season especially, many of these public hunting areas see large numbers of hunters, tacking on to the already-difficult challenge of harvesting a deer on public land for those with disabilities.
Hunting is not only an important wildlife management tool as well as pastime for some. Hunting is a cultural tradition for many Iowans, passed down from generations. Providing this opportunity for persons with disabilities and members of the younger generation is inviting these individuals into the wider hunting community and ensuring the appreciation for the outdoors will again be passed down to future generations.
Wiemold says Sleepy Hollow has a steady whitetail deer population, and combined with the recent habitat improvements on the property completed by SCC staff, it should offer a quality opportunity for the potential harvest of a deer.
Please visit www.storycountyconservation.org for complete rules and regulations. For reservation availability and registration, interested hunters should contact the Story County Conservation Center at 515.232.2516 or visit the office in person.