The Arizona Elk Society’s’ Hunts for Heroes® program has that question nailed:
On December 27th at 2 o’clock in the afternoon I received a call from Hunts for Heroes® about a donated desert sheep tag in Unit 37B. The only complications … the season was to end on the 31st and I live in Williams, AZ. After considering the magnitude of an Arizona sheep tag and a conversation with Tom Wagner (Hunts for Heroes® Coordinator), we decided to give it a go.
I was able to meet up with Tom around noon on the 28th and we headed to Superior, Az. Tom said we had some volunteers on the mountain glassing for sheep. Turned out “some volunteers” meant 7 volunteers from CouesWhitetail.com had showed up to be part of the hunt. After glassing the mountainside for a while, we pinpointed two beautiful mature rams. After discussing the situation, 3 volunteers and I then headed up Picketpost Mountain. 3/4 of the way up Picketpost, we spotted the two shooter rams a little over 500 yards uphill --- they had spotted us and were looking straight down at us. Although the wind was in our favor, we decided trying to get closer would probably send them over the top. After a few minutes of fumbling around trying to get a solid rest, we were able to take a solid shot. One shot and the ram rolled downhill out of sight. It took us about 45 minutes to cover those 500 yards, and I was speechless when we walked up on the monster sheep. The guys down below could hear our celebration all the way from their glassing location. After 30 minutes of pictures it was starting to get dark as we finished quartering out the ram. We proceeded to head down the mountain, our way lighted by headlamps with heavy packs.
I’m still in disbelief of the coordination, volunteers, and of course harvesting a trophy desert bighorn. The way December 28th came together was absolutely insane. I cannot thank the volunteers from CouesWhitetail.com and Arizona Elk Society’s Hunts for Heroes® program enough. It was an unbelievable team effort and I truly appreciate the compassion and footwork that made this hunt possible. It made me feel greatly appreciated. Many combat wounded veterans say the hardest thing isn’t the combat tour itself, but the transition back to “normal” life. For someone like myself, hunting has proven to be a great healing experience, and great steps toward normalization.
Thanks again for an unbelievable hunt,
Neil Schalk, Cpl, USMC
Sharing in this experience with the members and friends of the AES brought back the good memories of brotherhood
Often times the hardest time for a combat veteran isn’t the tour of duty itself; it is the transition back into civilian life. While experiences of war tend to negatively impact a soldiers life – there are still pleasant memories intermingled. These memories being those of good friends and comradery. Knowing that a good friend is there for you no matter what you may face and surviving the experience- in a way makes one appreciative of life. It’s a simple life. In theater you protect your brothers in arms while carrying out the mission – that’s it. Civilian life can be difficult to manage after living in this manner. The soldier has to attempt to let down his guard, “act normal”, worry about bills, schedules and loved ones feelings all while trying to heal themselves. Physical injuries may be a hindrance but when coupled with the physiological injuries that they are accompanied by- it is compounded. In essence this is the struggle of a soldier.
It is this struggle that can seem insurmountable to a soldier. Completing an objective in the service is relatively black and white. In civilian life there seems to be nothing but shades of gray that the vet tries to navigate; tragically sometimes to no avail. It is common for a vet to become reclusive, put his back to a wall and stay in their house as if it were a foxhole. While this is a temporary fix for protecting the soldier’s injuries from the world it also negates the healing process.
As aforementioned, it is easy to forget the pleasant memories of brotherhood that are intermingled with the memories that caused the injuries. It is easier to forget that there are wonderful people in the world who respect and or share the struggles of the soldier and wish to help. I met these very people; the friends and members of the Arizona Elk Society (AES). Hunting forms a fundamental part of our DNA as it has evolved through our ancestry. Being in nature is crucial for the human soul. It is this crucial part of the human soul that the soldier needs to heal and become re-attuned with. Sharing in this experience with the members and friends of the AES brought back the good memories of brotherhood and made my trip a blessing which provided true healing unto my soul. I would especially like to thank the volunteers and the tag donor who made this trip possible.
I started my Career In 1981, I enlisted in the Army. I became a Ranger and I found that the further I went the Men I served with never complained because we all wanted to be there. After 11 years I transfer to the Navy and it was the same there. After I was medically retired in 2004 and move on in civilian life I found I was and still am finding it hard to deal with civilians. What I found is I do not like complaining. My lovely wife pushed me to go hunting with a lifelong friend. Hunting has been not only a healing process but an outlet for me. Hunters want to be there. They do not complain if we get rained on or it’s cold or raining out. I enjoy being with other hunters.
I have never been drawn for Elk. So this hunt that was donated to me was very special. Randy and his son Seth showed me how to hunt Elk. It was hard work and very enjoying. They helped me harvest my first Elk on opening day. Randy and Seth were so fantastic. I believe we will be life time friends. We are already talking about next year putting in for a Bull hunt. I cannot wait. I cannot thank them enough.
I would like to thank the Arizona Elk Society, Hunts for Heroes® And Dennis Bloodworth for donating the tag.
John W. Marriott JR (USN RET)
August 28, 2016
As an injured Iraq veteran, I was offered a bison archery hunt in August of 2016. The hunt was generously donated by the "Hunts for Heroes®" and the tag was donated by an Arizona hunter who had drawn an either sex tag.
I'm writing this letter to personally thank the Arizona Elk Society and Hunts for Heroes® for this outstanding opportunity. I specifically want to thank the Arizona Elk Society for helping vets get this incredible experience. All the individuals involved provided equipment, food and lodging. I think knowing that individuals care so much makes this hunt so memorable for me. They are a great group of people.
I made friends and had an outstanding experience. In fact, since returning from the hunt my wife commented I seemed to be more patient with her and my children.
August 28, 2016
In the latter part of July 2016, my son Ryan, an injured Iraq war veteran, was contacted by Hunts for Heroes®, of the Arizona Elk Society. They advised my son that an Arizona hunter had graciously donated a Bison, either sex tag, and my son would be the recipient of this highly sought after tag.
During the pre-hunt my son asked if I could join him for the hunt as an observer. The coordinator indicated I could join my son on this once in a lifetime adventure. The hunt that followed is one of the most humbling experiences either of us has ever incurred.
We were met in the field by the AES Hunts for Heroes® Coordinator and four individuals that volunteered to assist in making this opportunity a comfortable, rewarding and successful experience. Everything was provided including, food, water, soft drinks, tents, and lodging. All we had to do arrive and hunt. I will never forget the time, work and expense these individuals gave willingly and with grace. Please accept my and my son's thanks from the bottom of our hearts. I was not aware that these kind of individuals existed, not only as humans, but as extreme hunters.
The hunt was a great experience for both my son and myself. I would like to thank the following individuals for making the hunt an experience neither of us will forget. We are forever indebted to the AES Hunts for Heroes® Team, Corky Richardson, Dale Parrish and Glen and Tracy Jones.