Student-built trailer helps Hubbard man hunt again

Tribune Chronicle / Virginia Shank John Karlovic of Hubbard, center, a quadriplegic, examines the adaptive technologies inside his new hunting trailer built by students at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, including Nathan Gasser, 18, a senior from Austintown, left, and Nick Clark, 17, a junior from Letonia.

CANFIELD — Mahoning County Career and Technical Center students — working nearly nonstop the past few weeks — have made it possible for John Karlovic to revisit an activity he was forced to abandon nearly five years ago after being paralyzed from a fall.

Karlovic, 64, who started hunting at an early age, can resume the sport –one of his favorite pastimes — by using a new adaptive technology-equipped trailer the students built for him from scratch.

“This is a wonderful thing they’ve done for me. I can’t even begin to say what it means,” Karlovic said.

Karlovic’s eyes filled with tears as the students, aka the Machine Team, gathered at the technical center in Canfield on Wednesday to unveil the new trailer the Hubbard Township man said will allow him “to return to the hunting trail.”

“My father taught me how to hunt when I was very young,” Karlovic said. “He’s  89 years old, and he’s still hunting today. I taught my sons the same way he taught me.”

Karlovic, an avid hunter for more than 50 years, is returning to the sport for the first time since 2012 when a fall down a flight of stairs left him a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down. He plans to use a bow and arrow for his initial try.

“I’ve missed it. It was a big part of my life,” he said.

Karlovic purchased a kit for the trailer, but needed a crew to build it. The vehicle was outfitted in MCCTC truck and diesel instructor Joe Merritt’s lab and constructed by MCCTC students across the Machine Team, which encompasses precision machine, truck and diesel, collision repair, engineering, and welding labs.

Some of the students who worked on the trailer are from truck and diesel, welding and engineering.

“Many of the projects the students do cross labs and require expertise from all of the specialties. This pushes the students to work together to get projects completed. It has been a collaborative effort building this trailer for John,” said Anina Karlovic, an MCCTC social studies teacher and Karlovic’s daughter-in-law. Blaise Karlovic, Karlovic’s son, is MCCTC’s treasurer.

Karlovic said the only thing the now-white trailer is missing is its camouflage covering that he expects will be added by spring.

The trailer is equipped with a fully automated hunting system. Karlovic now has a scope for both a crossbow and a shotgun integrated with a TV screen, which he can watch from inside the trailer. Everything is powered through solar panels. Karlovic can control both the shooting and aiming mechanisms with his mouth. He can use one lever to adjust and aim his weapon, then he bites down on another one to shoot.

“I’m amazed we were able to get it done as quickly as we did,” said Zach Signor, 17, of Canfield, a junior. “At first, we thought we’d have at least a month.”

Instead, noted Nathan Gasser, 18, a senior from Austintown, the team worked seven straight school days, beginning to end, to finish the vehicle in time for Karlovic to use it this week. Karlovic is among five hunters selected to participate in the Derek’s Dream Hunt in Cambridge today through Saturday. This event is a fully guided, all inclusive archery deer hunt for hunters with disabilities. The hunt is hosted by Deerassic Park and the National Wild Turkey Federation and, through various sponsors, is free for participants.

“We’ve never done anything like this before, building something someone can actually use to do something they enjoy but can’t participate in anymore,” said Nick Clark, 17, a junior from Leetonia. “It’s a good feeling, to know you’ve been part of something like this.”

Karlovic said his son Matt plans to help him adapt to his new wild gaming tools.

“Hunting for us is a family activity,” Karlovic said. “What these students have done for me, this gift, it’s priceless.”