For me, hunting offers an escape from the office, a way to reconnect with the outdoors, time with family and possibly some fodder for the frying pan at the end of the pursuit. I recently discovered it also offers hope.
A short time ago, I was fortunate enough to be asked to host a husband and wife through an organization called “Hope for the Warriors.” There are many organizations out there with a goal to help soldiers affected by the hardships and injuries of war. This one is different. It, too, focuses on the soldier and helping them through rehabilitation, recovery and even rejoining civilian life, but it does so with a family objective. It makes perfect sense.
Hope for the Warriors was founded in 2006 by a group of military wives who witnessed firsthand the effects of war on their partners. They banded together to help entire families with the changes and challenges before them. Today the organization supports caregivers, offers camaraderie, provides community outreach, organizes recreational opportunities and especially focuses on outdoor adventure. That’s where I come in.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Lew Deal, who oversees the outdoor adventure program, reached out to me and we’ve been hatching ideas since to get vets and their families into the field and out hunting. Our first hunt just ended and I’d have to say it was a smashing success.
Wounded Marine Chris Ayres and his wife Renee’ joined me and my son in northeast Wyoming to take part in a turkey hunt to raise funds for Wyoming Wildlife–The Foundation. State and national members of the National Wild Turkey Federation also helped cover expenses. We kicked off our hunt in the shadows of Devil’s Tower. Chris hunted with me and Renee’ headed another direction with a local guide. Apparently, Renee’ rubbed her lucky rabbit’s foot that morning because she literally stepped from the truck and, as she assembled her gear, a strutting gobbler strolled into range. Her guide yelped twice and her hunt was over.
Chris and I, along with the help of another local guide, had a rougher hunt. Gobblers stubbornly moved away from our calls, but at midday one responded with vigor and hustled into our setup. Chris, equipped with bow and arrow, let one fly. The arrow clipped feathers, but the gobbler escaped to torment another hunter on another day. The next day was more of the same. Nevertheless, Chris continually commented on how just being outdoors was such a treat. He marveled at Devil’s Tower, literally within sight every hour of his hunt. And while waiting for gobblers to show he shared with me the details of the battle in Fallujah, Iraq, that resulted in major damage to his leg. It was saddening and inspirational to hear the perils of war he and his soldiers endured.
Renee’ Ayres took this Devil’s Tower gobbler during a quick, exciting hunt.
At the end of our trip Chris was thinking of his next hunt and Renee’ was contemplating a turkey Grand Slam. As for me, I was honored to help a couple that’s given so much for our country. I’m looking forward to working with Hope for the Warriors on another hunt to help families forget and bond using the tradition of hunting.