I enlisted in the Army in 1981, right out of high school. It was my life’s dream. I followed the path of Infantry, Airborne, and Ranger. I spent 11 years in and loved every minute of it! Over that decade, I went on many military operations, and was seriously injured during one of them. I was subsequently removed from jump status. That didn’t sit well with me—I felt robbed and decided to leave the Army. Looking back, I’ve often regretted that decision. A while after I made my split from the Army, I ran into a friend who was in the Navy Seabees. That meeting reignited my passion for military life, and I re-enlisted in the Seabees. I was happy to be back in uniform! 2003 found me in Iraq. I ended up being injured again, this time a career ender. So, after 11 years in the Seabees,

I was facing a permanent retirement from the military. In spite of that and throughout everything, I’ve loved all my years in the military—I wouldn’t change a thing. After Iraq, I wasn’t interested in hunting. It was my wife and some friends who encouraged me to get into the outdoors, so I made those first steps. I enjoyed it okay, but something was missing. It was at a regional hunting/outdoors expo that I ran into a booth that the Arizona Elk Society (AES) had set up. I learned about their new veteran outreach program, Hunts for Heroes (now Heroes Rising Outdoors). I gave them my contact information but didn’t think much more about it. That following summer I was surprised to receive a call from AES asking me if I’d like to go elk hunting. I was shocked! Later that fall I was successful on a cow elk hunt. It was awesome! The experience made a positive impact on my life. I started volunteering with AES and began donating CNCcreated wall hangings from my company, Marriott’s Metal Art. I enjoyed giving back to the program after how I felt following my time spent in the outdoors.

I was genuinely surprised during the summer of 2002 when I answered a call from HRO program coordinator Tom Wagner. We had talked for several minutes when he got around to why he had called —he wanted to know if I was available to go elk hunting. An elk tag had been donated by a woman who had been injured and wasn’t going to be able to go on the hunt. I jumped at the opportunity! The tag being offered me by Heroes Rising Outdoors was a very special one—an elk tag in Unit 10. Arizona Game & Fish Department distributes a limited number of early rifle bull tags each year, rotating them between various game management units known to hold established numbers of mature elk. These tags are coveted by elk hunters because they allow the tag holder to be afield closer to active elk rutting periods. There’s no time more exciting to be in the woods than when bull elk are bugling loud and long! I was very fortunate to have High Point Outfitters (HPO) agree to donate their time and expertise and guide me on my hunt.

Co-owners Kevin Call and John Adams have spent a considerable amount of time through the years getting to know Unit 10‘s antelope and elk herds. With other paying clients lined up for the time my hunt would take place, they matched me up with one of their excellent young guides, Keaton Bingham. Keaton had been instrumental in successfully guiding both John and an HPO client to two 400-class bulls during the archery season that immediately preceded my hunt. Approximately 2/3 of Unit 10 is comprised of the Boquillas Ranch hunting access to which is granted via special permits. It just makes sense to hunt the “Big Bo” if one has a Unit 10 tag in hand. It truly is one of the most soughtafter places to hunt antelope and elk—not only in Arizona, but throughout North America! Tom Wagner and I arrived at elk camp mid-afternoon the day before my hunt was to begin. Introductions were made all around and we spent the rest of the day sharing past life experiences. A good evening meal was followed by more time talking beneath a skyful of stars, the sheer number which made you aware of how almighty God truly is!

“The benefits of partnering with Heroes Rising Outdoors go far beyond the privilege of receiving donated big game tags. We each joined the military to serve our country. I volunteer with HRO to serve our veterans. It is very gratifying to help a vet on a hunt, introducing them to one of America’s greatest traditions.”

Day 1

Wake-up call was 3:45 AM. Keaton, Tom, and I grabbed some snacks and headed out. Keaton drove out to a dirt stock tank he knew about. He parked his 4x4 and we started hiking north. We must have pushed a bull and his cows when we neared the tank in the dark. Keaton glassed up the bull’s antlers a quarter mile ahead of us in the junipers. Luck wasn’t with us though—they moved out quickly leaving us far behind. We then met up with HPO co-owner Kevin and his hunter. They had glassed up a bull but had decided not to go after it. Keaton and I decided to take a closer look. The hike was on. Keaton called a few times without much response. As it was, we were pretty sure the elk was a satellite (immature) bull. We then headed to a different spot but came up empty handed. 11 miles today.


Day 2

Early wake up again, snacks grabbed, and off we went! We headed out to the same location as the night before but couldn’t find a bull in range. We’d returned to camp for lunch and had just taken our boots off when a text came through to “Get over here, we’ve spotted a shooter bull!” So off we hustled back to where we were first thing on Day 1. We finally relocated the bull they had spotted. There was a problem though—he was on the move and covering ground quickly! Keaton and I finally spotted him with his cows a full mile away. We decided to move closer, but the wind shifted during our trek and the elk winded us. They took off at a run and never stopped. I was bummed out—he was nice! 8 miles today.


Day 3

Started the same as days 1 and 2. Keaton had another area for glassing we hadn’t been to yet. We drove for a while, then parked the truck and hiked out to a spot that overlooked a lot of country. It was just getting light when a mature sounding bugle drifted to us from about a half-mile below us. None of us could locate the bull though. Tom spotted a couple bulls moseying along through the junipers, but they weren’t what we were after. Then I spotted a lone bull all by himself—another younger bull. All this happened within the first few minutes. After about 10 more minutes, the vocal bull finally showed himself. Tom asked Keaton, “He looks pretty good, don’t you think?” Keaton sent me down off the point to get a head start. A game plan was agreed on very quickly! Tom would keep eyes on the bull while Keaton and I would make a stalk on the bull. Keaton literally came running down to me. I thought, “Oh, crap, here comes some more Keaton Cardio!” We made our way quickly to get to within 1,000 yards of the bull. He was grazing and walking slowly away from us up a ridge. We needed to get a little closer. At 880 yards, I said “Let’s do it!” I settled into a prone position with Keaton’s custom 7mm SAUM and squeezed off one shot.

Tom was watching all this from his vantage point. He first thought I had missed since there was no visible reaction from the bull. But about 7 seconds later the bull shifted his feet, then tipped over backwards without taking a step. What an adrenaline rush! When I joined the Arizona Elk Society, I already was a member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. A friend suggested I join AES as 100% of funds raised by AES for elk and habitat stays in Arizona. It is a fantastic program! I encourage you to join AES if you hunt in Arizona—you will be helping make a positive impact on elk throughout the state. I’m not just a member, I also donate my time as a volunteer. One of the facets of AES dearest to my heart is its veteran outreach program, Heroes Rising Outdoors. Honestly, HRO is the best organization I’ve gotten involved with! The AES board of directors is solidly committed to Arizona’s veterans. HRO focuses specifically on Arizona’s disabled veterans, with a mission of building a brotherhood of veterans who have a love of the outdoors and the wildlife in it. Heroes Rising Outdoors has done nothing but enrich my life. I’ve been humbled by all the volunteers who donate their time so freely. I’m not just a veteran participant— I’ve volunteered on many outings and events as well. I’ve helped vets hunting in the field and have put my culinary skills to work cooking for elk camps.

The benefits of partnering with HRO go far beyond the privilege of receiving donated big game tags. We each joined the military to serve our country. I volunteer with Heroes Rising Outdoors to serve our veterans. It is very gratifying to help a vet on a hunt, introducing them to one of America’s greatest traditions. When I came home from my final deployment, I was really stressed out from the war. On top of that, I was faced with having to deal with leaving military service for good. Being out in the woods started a healing process inside me. If you are a veteran dealing with disabilities and issues reintegrating back into civilian life, I encourage you to contact Heroes Rising Outdoors at arizonaelksociety.org. It may just be that positive thing you’ve been looking for!