Opening weekend of the 2019 big game rifle season began with a bang! It can be a stressful situation at times trying to get all of the Veterans together and fulfilling all their needs. This year especially has been more than worth all the work that goes into these hunts. My season begins mid summer with talking with the outfitters about what kind of animals they’re seeing and how many Veterans we should schedule. Mike with Trophies Plus Outfitters, has become a great friend and even more so family. I had several phone calls trying to make a trip down to Alzada and do some scouting – maybe even picking up a few sheds, but it never came together for me this year as my crazy work schedule always seemed to be in the way. What did come together was Mike. His family and crew had been seeing big animals and it was going to be an awesome season.
This year was rather special for me because it was a huge reminder for me of why we at Montana Wounded Warriors do what we do. Those who joined me were Art Hazen, Daniel Wilmot, Pete Plaza and Chad Wigley. I also had two new Veterans on the trip, Spencer Keck, and Jonathon (John) Hills who had never hunted before. Seeing the Vets gather in the awe-inspiring trophy room of Mikes and watching them all interact with each other like they were all still in uniform. The bantering back and forth on which branch is better. Go Army! The sharing of their stories of the hardships they have endured. The first morning came quickly as they were all paired up with their battle buddy and guide. We all headed out in anticipation of what the morning would bring. I was riding with John and Art for the morning because it was John’s first hunt. As we pulled into the ranch that we were hunting that morning everything went quiet. We were all suited up and ready to hunt. As Tom “The Super Guide”, approached the first hayfield we spotted a great 5×5 mule deer. John and Art got all set up and Art said “you got first shot buddy” because he knew that John had never killed a deer before. John looked at him kind of in shock as if it was the nicest things anyone had done for him in a while. John’s nerves must have been going a mile a minute as the buck approached into 100 yards. After what felt like an eternity, and no shot fired, the buck decided to take off. As the deer was running away Art was saying in John’s ear “ it’s ok, he’s going to stop!” Well the deer stopped at 225 yards and Art calmly talked to him and when he turned broadside said “Go ahead! Take him!” And just like that John had his first mule deer buck! See, it’s moments like this that ensure me that we’re doing the right thing. Yes, we are all there to hunt and harvest, but the bigger picture is that we are there to bring Vets together and create new friendships for them. To help establish a support chain for our brave men and women who have served. To let them know that they’re all appreciated. As a veteran myself, I experienced something truly special that day. A bond that these men created and will always remember. The rest of our time in Alzada was more of the same. Everyone on the trip harvested exceptional animals. Going 6 out of 6 so early in the season is almost unheard of, but, “knock on wood,” not at Trophies Plus! I have to give a huge thank you the entire family and crew at Trophies Plus Outfitters. All of the Veterans that have gotten to experience your operation are extremely thankful and want to come back every year. I can’t thank you guys enough for welcoming me and my son with open arms. Thank you for all the hard work you all put into taking care of our vets and making it a wonderful experience for all of them that get to come. I also would like to thank Montana Wounded Warriors for continuing this wonderful program that means so much to me and for letting me be a part of it.