Montana Wounded Warriors third trip of the year was in Dillon, MT.
This is the second year we have been blessed by the people of Dillon and allowed to bring down three of our Purple Heart veterans for an awesome hunt over the Veterans Day weekend. We would like to start off by thanking the folks who allow our wounded warriors access to their private property. The Tash’s and their neighbors Dennis Rehse and Ron Fick allowed our vets to hunt deer on property they own or manage and Jason Baker who has a duck hunting lease called Montana Mallards and showed our guys some top notch waterfowl hunting.
Then there is the Schuett family which has some of the best elk hunting opportunity in the state with great handicapped hunting access in a fair chase setting. We use outfitters on some other hunts we do but these folks not only allow access to their land they also help guide the warriors to game on their property with no trespass fee and we want to thank them for their generosity.
Our 3 hunters arrived in Dillon on Friday Nov 8th They were Saul Martinez of Bozeman, Tim Colvin of Helena and TJ Smith originally from the Medicine Lake area but now living in Billings. Tim and TJ both served in the 163 guard unit when deployed in Iraq and were together in the same humvee when it was hit by an IED. TJ was the driver and Tim was the NCO in command. TJ was hospitalized in country but Tim had to be airlifted to Europe. The 2 had kept in contact over the years but hadn’t actually seen each other since the attack. Saul was also deployed in Iraq and severely injured in an IED attack. We had told all 3 that this was a special place to hunt but I don’t know if they realized how great the weekend would turn out.
Friday night the hunting was kind of slow for Tim who was hunting deer and TJ who was hunting waterfowl, but their spirits perked up when Saul came back with stories of the elk herd on the Schuett ranch. Blade, the son of the ranch owners, David and Shelly Schuett, took Saul around the ranch in hopes of getting a bull into range. They weren’t able to get Saul within range that evening but he came back telling of huge herds of elk with many legal bulls. They weren’t sure if he was pulling their leg but they started to get excited. The next morning deer hunting was slow again for Tim but TJ got lots of trigger time as Jason was able to pull in lots of ducks and geese to his spread of decoys. Then we got a call that Saul had got a bull elk and everyone was pumped.
Saturday evening was Tim’s turn to hunt elk while TJ hunted deer and Saul shot ducks. Tim, like Saul the night before saw lots of bulls, just nothing in range. The deer weren’t cooperating so TJ’s hunt was slow and he started to wonder if there would be any elk left by the time he got to Schuett’s ranch. I tried to assure him everything would work out in the end. Sunday morning Tim got his elk while TJ hunted ducks and Saul took a break. He and his service dog had already had quite an adventure and needed a little rest. The theme of the weekend for the elk hunting was to go out in the evening see bulls get excited but no shots and that was the same for TJ on Sunday night. Saul who has only been hunting for a year and a half and has serious mobility went out for the evening deer hunt alone. Deer hunting had been very slow but just before dark a doe came out and Saul filled his B tag and field dressed his first animal.
Monday was Veterans Day, the last day of the trip, and I had the privilege of being with TJ when he took a nice 6 point bull. His shouts of joy echoed across the valley on a beautiful Montana fall morning. TJ worries of no elk being left for him weren’t an issue at the Schuett ranch. Monday night had TJ and Saul hunting together with Dennis. TJ got a doe and Saul took his first buck, a wonderful end to a great trip. The hunting was great with 3 bull elk, 1 whitetail buck and 2 does and multiple ducks and geese going home to fill their freezers but the real story was the bond between these men, especially the two who had been wounded together and the people of Dillon who let them know how much they appreciated their sacrifice to our country. It was also a weekend of firsts. TJ and Saul had never killed an elk before and Saul got his first buck, he also got to experience a feeling that most of us take for granted. I would never go into detail about the wounds that any of our warriors received while serving but I will say the Saul Martinez has the most serious physical disabilities of any warrior I have had the pleasure of taking on one of these trips. The idea that he had the chance to go out on his own and successfully harvest an animal must have given him a great sense of accomplishment and I’m glad we could provide him that opportunity.
I would like to extend one more thank you. Jeff Swenson of Helena is the action chair distributor in Montana. He contacted me several months ago to offer the free use of a tracked wheel chair for this hunt. Two of our vets on this trip have pretty serious mobility issues so I asked them if they would test this unit out, they agreed but I could tell it wasn’t something they were real excited about. Jeff and his wife were kind enough to deliver the unit to Dillon. We loaded it into the Back of TJ truck so it was ready to go into the field. That’s where it stayed all weekend long. Those guys wanted to prove to me and themselves that they didn’t need help getting around and that chair in the truck was all the motivation they needed. Jeff your chair may not have been used the way you intended but it accomplished its goal it got our wounded warriors out on a successful hunt, Thank You.