ALBION — It was the opportunity every hunter wants.

Late in the afternoon Nov. 12, a buck wandered onto an open field in Albion and paused below a nearby hunting blind.

Inside the blind sat three hunters. One of them, Jeff Molloy, took careful aim.
For Molloy, a 32-year-old resident of Palermo, this opportunity was the result of more than just one afternoon of patient waiting — it was the culmination of seven years of perseverance, ingenuity and hard work.

Molloy is a quadriplegic.

The accident

In 2004, Molloy was working from a ladder at his camp in St. Albans.

“It was a really hot day and I was dehydrated,” he said. “I just blacked out.”
Two friends were working with him at the time. They watched helplessly as Molloy fell from the ladder and landed on his head. He broke two cervical vertebrae and was paralyzed below the chest.

 Molloy was transported to a hospital by helicopter. He spent two months in Boston Medical Center, then another two months in Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

Afterward, Molloy moved in with his mother and stepfather in Palermo. He was 25.

For the first year and a half after leaving the hospital, Molloy struggled to come to terms with his new life.

“You’re in shock for quite a while after something like that happens,” the former logger said. “When I came home, I didn’t think I was going to be able to do anything.

“Everything I ever did was outside with my arms and hands. I was active. I loved hunting, fishing, skiing. Anything to do with the outdoors — that was me.”

A year and a half after the accident, Molloy decided he would hunt again.
Somehow.

Molloy, using adaptive computer equipment, scoured the Internet for devices to help him hunt from his wheelchair, and he caught what appeared to be a lucky break. Online, Molloy found a wheelchair-mounted shooting system created by Bob Bowen, a handicapped man living in Nebraska.

Molloy called Bowen to say he wanted to buy the equipment, but Bowen said he no longer made them.

“I was crushed, because it’s the only one I ever saw out there that handicapped individuals like myself could use,” Molloy said.

But, he was undaunted.

“Things happen for a reason,” Molloy said. “Nothing is really by chance.”

Building a shooting device

About a month later, Molloy’s stepfather met a man who could help.

Ray Kimball, a retired diesel mechanic and machinist listened Molloy’s story and decided to help.
Molloy and Kimball teamed up, reviewed Bowen’s system and began hatching their own design.

“I called Bob Bowen and asked him if he would mind if we borrowed some of the concepts from his system,” Molloy recalled. “And, we had his blessing to do so.”

With Bowen’s permission, Molloy and Kimball embarked on a three-year journey of designing, building and trials.

In the meantime, Molloy picked up skills that came in handy for the project.

“I went back to school and got a degree in computer-aided drafting, and I was able to get on my computer and draft up every single little piece that’s on that (shooting) unit.”

Kimball volunteered to machine the parts.

What emerged from their three-year collaboration is the Equalizer Shooting System — an anodized-steel rifle mount that fits snuggly into brackets on the wheelchair and spans Molloy’s lap.
The device can accommodate three of Molloy’s rifles: a .22-caliber rifle for target practice, a shotgun for turkey hunting and a .270-caliber rifle for deer hunting.

A chin-operated joystick allows Molloy to quickly fine-tune the gun’s aim — up, down, left and right. A separate mouth-operated device, called a straw, allows Molloy to activate the trigger with a determined puff of air.

The system is also equipped with a digital riflescope that transmits an image onto a small LCD monitor. At the center of the monitor are crosshairs.

“On that monitor, I can see exactly what the scope sees,” Molloy said.

The wheelchair-mounted device can also be affixed to a standalone bench so other handicapped individuals can use the system — a benefit that was shared with disabled veterans in August during the annual Veterans/No Boundaries Program at Camp Wavus in Jefferson.

“One day, we spent six hours shooting down there,” Molloy said of the event. “Some veterans who were in wheelchairs hadn’t shot a gun for 40 years, and they were able to do so again.

“We had a really, really good time.”

The hunt

The real test of the Equalizer Shooting System came on that cold afternoon in mid-November in Albion.

Molloy and two friends had been hunkered in the hunting blind since about 2 p.m., and the sun was nearly setting. Within another five minutes, the legal shooting period would end for the day.

That’s when Molloy’s childhood friend, Elisha Fowlie, saw a deer slowly emerging from a knoll and into view.

Molloy scrambled to maneuver his wheelchair into position from within the tight confines of the blind.

“By the time I got turned on to the deer, the whole thing was in view and was walking across the field,” Molloy said.

The deer was 130 yards away, and one minute remained on the clock.

The other member of the hunting party, Will Rood, said it was a nail-biter.

“We were absolutely running out of time,” he said.

Molloy moved the crosshairs over the deer’s broadside, drew a deep breath and blew a puff of air into the straw.

The shot was true.

The bullet entered the 118-pound four-point buck behind the front shoulder and struck its heart.

“It was just one shot, and it killed it instantly,” Molloy said. “It dropped right in its tracks.”

Fowlie and Rood unloaded Molloy’s rifle, then ran into the field to see the fallen buck and celebrate.

“It was probably the most moving deer hunt I’ve ever been on,” Fowlie said. “It was just incredible. We were yelling and I could hear Jeff screaming from the tent. It was just awesome.

“I’ve shot a decent amount of deer in my life, and nothing compared to that hunt with (Molloy). Nothing.”

Rood agreed.

“It was inspirational, certainly for me,” Rood said. “Just to be involved in something like that was just incredible — just an incredible moment in hunting.”

Molloy said he hopes other people can benefit from the Equalizer Shooting System. A shelf in his home is covered with parts for additional units. He maintains a website at www. equalizershootingsystem.com.

“I’m trying to get it on the market to sell to other individuals,” he said.

In the meantime, Molloy said he plans to hunt as much as possible.

His mother, Christine Saban, has no doubt he will.

“We won’t be able to keep him down now,” she said. “Next spring, he’ll be on the go.”

Ben McCanna — 861-9239
[email protected]


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