Ridgewater Welders Make Hunting More Accessible with Trailers
November 28, 2023
The rewards of helping others came to life recently for Ridgewater Welding students, thanks to the completion of a collaborative project with the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center (PWELC) in Kandiyohi County.
For 24 years, the PWELC organization with several volunteers has held limited “special” hunts for special people on Prairie Woods property during deer season. Six years ago, hunt volunteers approached Ridgewater Welding instructor Cody Sarsland with an idea that could change lives. And it has, indeed.
Typical deer hunters venture to the woods to scout the area, prepare a blind or stand, and plan for venison trophies. For many, the tradition is exciting, but for hunters in wheelchairs, the task includes mobility challenges.
“These guys really don’t get a chance to get out on their own, so we take them out into the fields and to the blinds with four-wheelers and trailers,” said 24-year hunt volunteer Dave Muetzel. They have used snowmobile trailers and patched-together homemade trailers – nothing really worked well, stayed together or felt very safe.
Now, however, thanks to four customized wheelchair trailers built by Ridgewater students and instructors the last few years, the special hunt crew confidently takes 8-10 wheelchair-bound hunters out for their deer adventures. “Now we have four really nice trailers,” Muetzel said. This year’s eight hunters proudly tagged 11 deer.
“I made the drawings years ago,” explained Sarsland, “but the original design has had improvements made to it, thanks to the second-year students’ ability to listen to the needs of the hunting volunteers.”
This year’s trailer creation was the fourth and final one. They each have taken about two weeks of class shop time to do the cutting, gas metal arc welding and assembly. The Ridgewater Auto Body Collision Technology students helped with the painting.
“The students worked well with each other and were able to meet this year’s November deadline,” Sarsland said. Students needed to consider the basic need, function, and reliability.
The volunteers secured the generous donors and sponsors for materials. “Our students are at that age where they understand how helping others is sometimes more rewarding than getting a paycheck at the end of a job,” Sarsland said. “If they can get that rewarding feeling, it might encourage them to do another service and help others gain the same sense of accomplishment and “paying it forward” can continue.”
Many donors and sponsors have been involved and recognized through the years. This year kudos goes to sponsors Dooley’s Petroleum and Jennie-O.
A special thanks from both Muetzel and Sarsland to the generous donors of the four-wheelers that safely pull the trailers, hunters, volunteers, and prize deer – Larry’s Power Equipment, Great River Energy, and Kandiyohi County Landfill.