Try a Wounded Veteran or Youth Hunt

I certainly hope your fall hunting season was as rewarding and memorable as mine. Not only did I get to spend a week with my two grandsons (ages 3.5 and 1.5) in a wall tent within the Gros Ventre Wilderness, I also got to assist with two veteran related hunts. A quick note on the grandson experience: One need not spend a lot of money on toys when you take them to the wilderness. Maybe spend $2.50 for a small army surplus shovel, and Mother Nature along with the great Outdoors will take care of the remainder of the entertainment needs. Simply amazing.

On to the veteran related hunts. WWF teamed up with the Jackson Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (JH RMEF) to provide two elk hunts; one for a wounded veteran and a second hunt for the son of an active service father. Our wounded veteran hunter was Scott Covington, from Ft. Bridger. Scott spent 2004-2005 in Iraq. Prior to that, he was a cross country star for Green River High School. Thus, the Army took advantage of his athletic ability and kept him running, but this time he had to carry heavy loads of ammunition to resupply snipers and gunners in the 10 Mtn. Division in Iraq. He also manned a Humvee gun. However, shrapnel from a mortar attack and a train incident resulted in his left leg having to be amputated below the knee. It may have changed his world a bit, but his personality, attitude and philosophies are still absolutely grounded.

Scott lives in the Fort Bridger area with his wife Amy, and two children; Brake (2) and Clare (1). Scott says Amy is his “rock”, always there and always supportive.

A very generous private landowner offered his property for the hunt near Jackson. Wall tents for cooking and sleeping were set up, groceries purchased, firewood cut, stoves set up and lanterns hung. Volunteers from the JH RMEF and WWF manned their positions and assumed their duties/responsibilities. After three days of hunting elusive elk, along with story swapping (all of them true), home cooked meals, a little totty drinking and constant joking, Scott connected with his bull elk. It was a quick shot as the bull paused for a few seconds while moving through the timbered area. It had to be a quick and accurate shot, since the herd was headed for an adjacent landowner’s property and quickly approaching the boundary fence. The herd had used this trick for the past two days. Thus, it only took us hunters TWO DAYS to figure it out!

Scott’s hunt story was covered by the Casper Star Tribune and can be viewed here: http://trib.com/lifestyles/home-and-garden/elk-foundation-takes-wounded-veteran-on-hunt/article_fdb29677-2f83-575e-af41-f91b89db41e1.html

This is the third year of Wounded Veteran hunts sponsored by the JH RMEF. WWF thanks them for recognizing the importance of conservation organizations joining arms when it comes to addressing common missions and goals. Next year’s wounded veteran hunter will be Colton Sasser from Casper. The Casper Star Tribune has printed several articles on Colton. The latest can be viewed here: http://trib.com/news/local/casper-welcomes-home-spc-colton-sasser/article_b1166abd-3d53-51a7-9f7e-af5c56e762ba.html

Second Hunt – We wanted to include a youth hunt with Scott’s hunt above. However, schedules could not be aligned and we had to hold the hunts separately. Dylan Lytle, a 15 yr old young man from Afton and his father Jim away on active duty was selected. Jim had previously been deployed to Iraq with the 115th Brigade Jim and was currently in Alabama receiving extended military training. Dylan had not previously elk hunted.

Dylan and I horse packed into the Gros Ventre Wilderness and camped out for two extended weekends. Dylan’s choice of weapon was his Grandfather’s tired and proven Remington Model 760 3.08 caliber rifle which had been handed down to him.

The first weekend produced nothing. Same results for the first day of the next 3-day weekend. That didn’t deter Dylan’s resolve since he was most interested in “hunting” not just “killing”. The experiences with horse/mule packing and camping were the real meat and potatoes of the adventure for him. Then came the afternoon of the second day when we spotted a lone bull high on a ridge and started our stalk. Part way through the stalk we were busted as two bull appeared to our left – running away. Then a spike appeared and I gave the Dylan the OK to shoot. My mistake, there were just too many moving parts, too short of a time frame to shoot in, on and on. Dylan missed.

We camped through a snowy night and checked out a small drainage adjacent to our camp the next morning. Sure enough, fresh tracks in the fresh snow. There, on the hill above us, an elk butt sticking out behind a tree. A bull. We crawl a little to our right and Dylan takes a steady shot from his shooting stick. The gun shot echoes through the canyon. We climb the hill and find an obvious blood trail indicative of a lung-shot. We find the bull a few hundred yards away, piled up in the nastiest downfall one can find on the mountain side.

After several hours of dragging, de-boning, packing up camp and riding out we meet Dylan’s family at Alpine around 9:00 p.m. Dylan has not seen his father for an extended period of time and now he greets him with a 5 point bull elk in hand -the sweetest homecoming ever.

I asked Dylan what he considered to be the most fun or memorable part of the 5 day hunt. He replied “dragging/sliding the elk halves off the mountain”. In other words he cherished the hunting, not just the killing. And, that’s the way it should be.

WWF extends thanks and appreciation to a myriad of individuals, organizations, businesses and our prized wildlife resource for making the above hunts possible. And, a special thanks to the military families that embrace and endure their many sacrifices so that we can all have such an incredible lifestyle here in Wyoming.

–Steve Kilpatrick, WWF Field Scientist