BOISE • All Andrew Pike needed to go pheasant hunting was a new set of wheels, preferably in camo.
He could move around the house just fine with his current wheelchair. But after receiving a new, track chair Wednesday — complete with a matching camouflage seat and frame — Pike is now able to enjoy Idaho’s outdoors on his own.
In 2007, Pike was shot in the back by a sniper’s bullet while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq. The injury left him paralyzed from the waist down. The former Kimberly High School football and baseball player grew up in south-central Idaho and developed a love for hunting and football early on.
Recognizing his service and sacrifice, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter presented Pike with a specialized wheelchair Wednesday at the Idaho Capitol.
Donations helped pay for the chair with all-terrain tractor like wheels, said Bill Potter, chairman of the Ketchum-based Higher Ground.
“This whole thing started two years ago when Andrew and I went fishing one afternoon in Hagerman,” Potter said. “I told Andrew, 'If you make one small move, you might fall in and I’m 70 years old, I’m not going to be able to get you out.'"
The gift was a surprise to Pike. The Purple Heart recipient was led to the Capitol under the guise that he was only going to meet the governor and take a Statehouse tour.
When Otter guided Pike to the garden level of the Capitol, he was met with a small crowd. Friends and family, including his parents, Robin and Twin Falls Police Chief Brian Pike, and plenty of lawmakers and staffers had gathered in the bottom-level rotunda.
Moving into his new seat, Pike buckled in and began fiddling with the settings. He had tested out the chair before at a fundraising event in Sun Valley but never imagined he might get one.
“I’ve been able to hunt and fish off and on,” he said. “This will be my first chance to move around by myself."
The chair also included an extra bonus. The seat rises to allow Pike to stand.
It’s a perk but it also takes getting used to, Pike said.
“I feel kind of lightheaded,” he said, lowering the seat. “The blood flow is different."
Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore said helping more disabled veterans gain access to hunting and fishing is a priority for him.
“Continuing the heritage for hunters is a huge priority in Idaho,” he said. “This is what inspires me to do my job."
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