The Craig Family Camp- Ladies Instructional Shoot

She was beaming, her face lit up like a summer sunrise. “I did it,” she exclaimed while looking at her target with pride. It was the first time in her life that she had ever fired a rifle and much to her surprise, she hit the target exactly where she had lined up her crosshairs and pressed off the trigger, all ten rounds worth. Her apprehension at the bench was easy to see. Before she pressed off her first shot, I gave her a light touch to the shoulder and I told her that I knew she could do it, and she did.

That feeling of accomplishment that comes from hitting your mark, that feeling of empowerment that if you can learn to do this, you can learn to do anything. Having the ability and freedom to accomplish all of our hopes and dreams is exactly what this great country and the Craig Family Camp is about. The firearms gave these women a glimpse of more possibility on the horizon and a newly found confidence to work towards that possibility.

85 women attended the Craig Family Camp 1st Annual Women’s Instructional Shooting Day and 85 women went home with their lives being forever changed.  Some women had never shot or even touched a firearm in their life, while others had shot a rifle or shotgun but not a pistol. The camp provided the opportunity for women to shoot rifles, shotguns and pistols, all in a safe controlled environment with knowledgeable mentors and instructors.

 

 

The Craig Family Camp is a place where the outdoors and families come together. Many of the women that attended the camp arrived with the anticipation of a first hunting season, or they are taking a child on a hunt and wanted to be better prepared, while others came with the need to learn how to shoot in order to take greater responsibility of personal protection while in the home. The small town of Bloomington Indiana is filled with women that have a desire to become more involved with hunting, shooting sports and a desire to learn more about firearms.

The Craig Family is generous in heart, creating the camp that is free to attendees a place where friends and families have the opportunity to learn, grow and create memories. A place where traffic jams and email is replaced by campfires and hiking trails. A place to curl up next to the fire in the 5000 sq. ft. lodge with enveloped in conversation with a new friend.

The Craig Family wants all who walk upon this 100 acre wooded sanctuary to escape, grow, remember and pass on the lessons learned while here. An opportunity to encourage and empower others is what the camp is truly about.

A prayer was spoken before lunch was served, one that spoke of faith, family and friends, and the important things in life, the gift of time and knowledge. Glory to God for these gifts and as servants of the Lord, it is our responsibility to pass along the gifts that are given to us throughout life, to others creating a ripple effect that is felt by the world.

It is with many thanks that I give praise to the Craig Family for hosting such a tremendous community outreach and to the people within the community that generously donated their time, resources and knowledge. Beyond that, many left a lasting impression on our hearts from afar; Becky Layne from the Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) traveled from Wyoming to show us all the support of the WSF. Her presence alone was a great gift, but the WSF gave more than that, they donated to the event, helping to make the entire day possible. The Buck Knives family owned company generously donated hats and knives with a famous forever warranty in support of the educational event.

Montana Silversmiths made women feel especially beautiful with their unique western designed and inspired jewelry and buckles that they generously donated in support of the event.

It is only with the support of families like the Craig’s, volunteers and generous donors that events like this are possible. This is truly a grass roots effort to ensure the continuation of our time honored hunting, outdoors and shooting sports traditions.

I am already looking forward to the 2016 event. If you or your company would like to become involved with supporting the Craig Family Camp, please contact Greg Stube, Executive Director of the Craig Family Camp at greg@craigfamilycamp.org

Swarovski Optik Quests- Texas Aoudad

It has been made official... I am out of the <1 Club thanks to an extraordinary Aoudad hunt with Dean Capuano for Swarovski Optik Hunting Quests and Offgrid Outdoors airing on the Outdoor Channel. For me, the hunt was filled with highs and lows, ones that we all can relate to as hunters but perseverance paid off and I was able to take this big old ram. 

Wild Sheep Foundation Magazine Spring 2015

Freedom Re-Discovered on the Mountain- WWO Adventures Enabled

We are blessed with the freedom climb to the tops of the highest mountains, to experience the thrill of the hunt while taking in the splendor of the good Lord’s perfect paintbrush; the awe inspiring landscapes of wild places. These freedoms have not been granted to us without a tremendous amount of sacrifice paid in full by our brave servicemen and women that have given a vow made out in the amount of their own life to protect that very freedom. So many sacrifices have been made by others on our behalf, so much to be grateful and thankful for.

The recent release of the movie, American Sniper detailing the life story of the United States most lethal sniper in history, Chris Kyle, has brought a tremendous amount of much needed attention to our servicemen and women. Chris’s story and his legacy is reaching audiences that are record breaking. The blanket of protection that he provided can literally be felt by the entire world. Chris lived his life serving from the battlefield to our homeland.

Chris is not alone in his service, there are many warriors that are heroes among us, and many of those that are in need of the powerful healing that only Mother Nature can provide. Giving back is what this life is all about and taking the opportunity to give back to those who have served, fought and bled to protect our freedoms is something that I do not take lightly, nor should you.

Over the past few years, I have been blessed with personally witnessing miracles on the mountain with participants in the Wounded Warrior Outdoors, Adventures Enabled Program. As a 501-C3, WWO puts 95 cents of every dollar donated towards the therapeutic benefit of currently wounded, in-hospital treatment servicemen and women. Some injuries are evident and some are invisible.

On the mountain, there is something magical that happens when you are there. As outdoorsmen, we can all attest to the spiritual and emotional restoration that comes from being in wild places and the brotherhood like bond that is forged amongst friends and family in the field.

Participants, are given an opportunity to get away from the sounds, smells and sterile hospital environment, from the repetition of therapy to a life that is vastly different. Over ¾ of the participants in the WWO program have never hunted or had the opportunity to take in the sound of the early morning breeze whispering through the trees, feeling the warm rays of sunshine erase the chill from the air, watch wildlife making their way to their bedding area for the day, the mountains provide an adventure that is not only memorable, but life changing.

Time spent on the mountain, pressing oneself to go beyond what was once thought possible, breaking any preconceived physical or mental limitations, doing things that one may have never before dreamed of doing. The mountain makes a person want to work harder, fight longer, even to the point of exhaustion, but at the end of the trail there is the triumph that one has risen to the challenge and owned the mountain. As hunters, we can all relate to this triumph and the confidence that is actualized in that life changing moment. In these times, the brotherhood bond that warriors experience in service is replicated within the fellowship of the hunt. 

In the hospital, many warriors find themselves on a repetitious schedule of therapy in a very accessible environment that offers a limited amount of challenges. The hospitals make their warrior selections based on individuals that will benefit from an environment like the mountain and camp life that do not offer the typical aids like elevators or wheelchair ramps. This is where the therapeutic benefit comes into play; each person has to discover new ways to get around.

In the outdoors, there are no elevators and no wheelchair ramps. The mountain and the thrill of the hunt not only inspires the warriors to develop and train the brain to think differently but often times helps them find the determination to succeed. For each warrior that mental and/or physical journey is a little different.

The 100% volunteer staff is there to facilitate the true healing that comes from the mountain. Witnessing battle-scarred servicemen and women discovering for the first time or re-discovering ability that was once thought lost is not only inspirational but a true miracle.

USMC TJ Tejada

Ron Raboud and wounded warrior mentor Jim Sursely met TJ just six months following the loss of both of his legs above the knee due to injury sustained in combat. The promise of a bear hunt kept TJ working hard through physical therapy looking forward to the promise of the amazing adventure that lie in wait. TJ refused to be held back and 2.5 years after his injuries were sustained, he met the medical goals that were required for him to attend the WWO black bear hunt.

In the moment one rarely rises up to the occasion but most always falls back on their level of training. TJ, a 14 year Marine has extensive training. After sorting out the reticle in his Swarovski Optik scope, he set his hand atop the tripod, wrapped the sling around his arm resting the stock of the gun along his wrist, all while balancing in his wheelchair on the side of a mountain, took aim and executed an absolutely perfectly placed shot on the chocolate colored black bear at over 300 yards.

As a hunter, the moment of truth and reward lies in the recovery. The bruin was too large to drag down the mountain for TJ to experience a proper recovery for his bear, so the chain saws came out and we all made sure that TJ was there, in the exact place that his bear lay, doing a proper recovery. For the final steps leading to the bruin, TJ wrapped his arms around the necks of WWO volunteers, Omar and Jordie and they literally carried him to his bear.

Having been on many hunts, I can honestly say that I have never been on a hunt that has affected me so deeply. Words simply do not give this moment justice but in that moment, watching TJ with his bear, knowing the years of work that had went into that moment, the look on his face is exactly why I volunteer to be part of the WWO program.

That day changed TJ’s life and later that week, TJ found the strength within himself to walk up the stairs out of the house to the car on his prosthetic legs for the first time since his double amputation three years prior. The moments TJ had experienced with WWO on the mountain, had changed his life.

Flash forward, less than one year later, it was an honor to stand beside TJ at the 2014 Wild Sheep Foundation National Convention where TJ is now serving as an alumni member in the WWO program for more recently wounded brothers and sisters in arms.

The beauty of the WWO program is that participants often become mentors to other, more recently wounded servicemen and women, forging a chain of support, inspiration and brotherhood that is unbreakable.

USMC Matt Amos

Matt has always been an avid hunter and after he was injured in combat June of 2011, resulting in the loss of both of his legs, it was not a question of if he would ever hunt, but how he would have to improvise to make hunting possible again.

In May of 2012, on the one year anniversary of Matt’s alive day, the day he was injured in combat that nearly cost him his life, he was on the mountain, hunting black bear with WWO. Matt credits the WWO program as being the greatest part of his recovery mentally and emotionally and now serves as an alumni mentor of the WWO program.  Matt’s story is truly one that comes full circle, from service to countrymen over-seas to the home land.

Matt’s service does not end with WWO, he works directly with his personal Prosthetist visiting new patients both military and civilian helping to keep them motivated to learn to live life as normal, just improvised.  Currently, Matt is mentoring a tiny four year old boy named Bear that lost both of his legs above the knee due to a rare condition. Thanks to Matt and his inspiration, for the first time in the four year olds life, he can now freely dream of playing, not in the confines of a wheelchair, but on his two new prosthetic legs.

These are but two stories of the approximately 400 lives that the WWO program has touched since inception in 2006. Those who participate in WWO, will discover or rediscover their abilities on the mountain and often times learn that disability is as more of a mind-set than it is a physical limitation. In the outdoors, healing is found in both visible and invisible ways that is difficult to imagine until you witness it first-hand.

It is an honor to support some of America’s best and brightest patriots, our service men and women, participants of the WWO program, helping to provide them with therapeutic outdoor adventures and an opportunity to venture back into wild country. Thanks to the generous support of donors and volunteers, freedom to participants is re-discovered on the mountain.

 

 

 

 

North American Hunter- Putting Sheep On The Mountain

The WSF is a small group of less than 6,000 members world-wide that are making a big difference to enhance wild sheep populations, the promotion of professional wildlife management, educating the public and our youth on sustainable use, and theconservation benefits of hunting.

The WSF convention is one of my favorite conventions to attend simply because of the many events that occur during the weekend—the Celebrity Sporting Clays event features members of the U.S. Shooting Team and Wounded Warrior Outdoors alumni; the elaborate ladies luncheon presented by Cabela’s, themed this year as a South Pacific Ladies Luau; the Club Cocktail Reception where those who enter that have never hunted sheep are eligible to win one of three coveted sheep hunts; the 3 days of expositions featuring the latest and greatest in gear; and some of the best hunting outfitters in the world. There’s something for everyone in the seminars, grand banquets, and live and silent auctions.

The two keynote speakers, Shane Mahoney and Rick Carone, left me inspired and convicted to do more and be more.

Click HERE to read the entire article.

 

2015 Wild Sheep Foundation National Convention

Putting and keeping sheep on the mountain since 1977, the Wild Sheep Foundation National Convention in Reno Nevada is a weekend that every serious hunter and conservationist should attend annually. WSF is a small group, less than 6,000 members world-wide that are making a big difference to enhance wild sheep populations, the promotion of professional wildlife management, educating the public and our youth on sustainable use and the conservation benefits of hunting.

Celebrity Sporting Clays Event

For my third year in a row, I attended the Celebrity Sporting Clays Event with the USA Shooting Team and Wounded Warrior Outdoors alumni, USMC Matt Amos, USMC Brian Meyer, US Navy Hospital Corpsman Tommy Neuens and USMC Michael Fox.

Last year, I shot on Matt Amos team and we struggled to beat each other, I ended up in last place, likely for the entire shoot, so I was excited for my attempt to redeem myself and possibly beat Matt this year. It is all a competition with these guys, after-all it is a tournament.

My teammates, USMC Michael Fox, Jim Newberry, Mike Cassiday, Camden Leach and Mo Parsons. Sorry guys, you all got the short end of the stick. With me on your team, we are sure to NOT win the tournament.

True to my cross dominant style, I was once again “Revenge of the Nerds” with tape over my left eye. Fortunately, by the end of the day, I was missing clays with greater accuracy and I was thankful for such an amazingly talented team that was able to help me along the way.

For the second year in a row, I lost to Matt, and well probably everyone at the shoot and I keep promising myself that I am going to practice but the allure of the precision rifle wins out every year.

South Pacific Ladies Luau- Presented by Cabela’s

Once again Kelli Thornton and Pauline Rupp have outdone themselves with the beautiful South Pacific themed ladies luncheon and luau. All of us were taken to a far off tropical island where we were greeted at the door by beautiful Polynesian hula dancers with flower lei’s.

Sipping on Mai Tai’s, while perusing the many silent auction items, while catching up with old girlfriends and meeting new.

After the ladies were primed and bidding was done on silent auction, the doors were opened up to a journey to Hawaii where hula dancers kept beat to the pulsating drums.

The keynote speaker of the day was Melanie Pepper, a past President of the Houston Safari Club, a member of the NRA Executive Women’s Leadership Council, the 2013 SCI Diana Award recipient and the 2008 Houston SCI International Outstanding Huntress of the year.

Also speaking was Ron Raboud, of Wounded Warrior Outdoors. Ron spoke on behalf USMC Kirstie Ennis, a 23 year old American hero. A woman that nearly gave her life to protect those who could not protect themselves.

Kirstie, a high school graduate at 15 years old, earned her Associate of Arts at 17 years old, her Bachelors Degree at 19 her Masters Degree in Human Behavior at 21 and at 23 years old she is currently working on her PhD in Psychology. Somewhere in there Kirstie had time to serve two deployments to Afghanistan and is now on the US Paralympic Development Team in snowboarding.

Kirstie is medically retired due to injuries sustained when her helicopter crashed in Now Zad Afghanistan, injuries that will cost Kirstie her right leg below the knee.

Kirstie is an inspiration to all women hunters and is an active participant in the Wounded Warrior Outdoors program and serves to help others, like herself, rediscover ability on the mountains.

As the presenting sponsor of the ladies lunch, Cabela’s also donated three packages including an optics package, a bow hunting package complete with the Cabela’s Instigator bow, arrows, broadheads, ladies release, OutfitHer WindShear hooded jacket and pants and a camping and backpacking package with Instinct 2 person tent, Cabela’s womens Ridgeline 45-L Backpack, 15 degree sleeping bag, XPG sleeping pad, and a jet boil.

Convention

Throughout the weekend guests were invited to attend the many seminars, some of the topics included lightweight backpacking, preparation for your first sheep hunt, navigating with your GPS to getting and staying in sheep shape.

The <1 Club reception is always a hoot and this year they made attending extra sweet with not one, not two but three drawings for sheep hunts! 

Guest speakers included Shane Mahoney and Rick Carone. The weekend was loaded with fun and inspiration. Putting critical monies on the ground to put and keep sheep on the mountain. I am already looking forward to the 2016 convention.

 

 

2014 Wild Sheep Foundation National Convention

The Wild Sheep Foundation National Convention is one of my favorite shows to attend. Even though it is a small show, you have 100% hard core hunters that all share the same desire for extreme hunting that pushes not only your body but your mind beyond what you may have previously believed possible.

At some point, every sheep hunter descends from the mountain exhausted, cold, hungry and weary, addicted to the rush of the challenge, dreaming to do it again. It becomes a compulsion that I cannot describe. The bonds that are forged in formidable territory truly last a lifetime.

This year’s national convention and its attendees put $3.1 million dollars towards putting and keeping sheep on the mountain. Attendees all got a chance to check out some of the best manufactures from around the globe showcasing the latest and greatest in backcountry gear and firearms. This year boasted a dynamic seminar line up with tips from some of the most credible hunters in the world.

Many awards were given this year including the Frank Golata Outfitter Award which went to the well deserving Drinkall family. The USA Flag that was flown in Afghanistan was auctioned off raising $60,000 for Wounded Warrior Outdoors and the WSF.

Evening events were always entertaining with redneck style Olympics. Thursday night was the “Horse Packing Races”, Friday night was the “Backpacking Races” and Saturday night was a free for all at the local dance hall.

Over the course of the show, new friendships were made but most importantly, necessary funds were put on the ground to go to work towards conserving and enhancing our critical natural resources for the next generation of sheep and sheep hunters.

 

 

2014 Wild Sheep Foundation Ladies Luncheon

 

Rhinestones & Rodeo

The Wild Sheep Foundation Ladies Only Luncheon is without a doubt one of the best events of the year. Event organizers Kelli Thornton, Pauline Rupp, Mickie Jefferson and the entire ladies luncheon committee pay close attention to the tiniest of detail making this year’s Rhinestones & Rodeo theme an absolute hit, all brought to us by Cabela’s.

Attendees were greeted at the door by cowboys serving glasses of champagne welcoming us into the marvelous room filled with silent auction and raffle items.  It is so awesome to have a room full of women with a shared passion for the outdoors and our hunting heritage.

This was a great opportunity for women to network, share business cards, stories and make friends. Everyone shared in laughter either watching or riding the mechanical bull. Many even got up and danced as Midnight Riders performed live.

Tables were perfectly decorated and everyone went home with a goody bag, including a “Red Solo Cup” wine glass.  Rachel Ahtila was this year’s guest speaker sharing a few of her experiences as a woman coming up in the industry and becoming a professional hunting guide.

The luncheon was finalized with a live auction where up and coming artist Madison Drinkall’s donation, a pencil drawing titled “Home in the Mountains” sold for $7,600. Madison was born into a well known outfitting family in the mountains of British Columbia, hence the inspiration for her awe inspiring piece. It really was a profound moment to see the tears of joy welling from her eyes at the outpour of support from the women in the room. We all witnessed a young women’s dream come true.

Our mission as women hunters and shooters is to educate, empower and inspire others with the ultimate goal of giving others the confidence to try out new outdoor activities including hunting and shooting sports. I was proud to be at this luncheon filled with a room of remarkable women as an ambassador for Cabela’s who contributes so much in order to help ensure the continuation of our time honored traditions ensuring a timeless legacy.


 

2014 USA Shooting Team/WWO Sporting Clay Shoot

Every year he Wild Sheep Foundation organizes a sporting clays tournament during the national convention, this year’s event was in Carson City NV hosted by the Capitol City Gun Club.

 

 

Members of the USA Shooting Team Frank Thompson, Brian Meyer on the gun.Amber English, Kayle Browning, Caitlin Connor and Jake Wallace joined Wounded Warrior Outdoors GySGT, USMC Brian Meyer, GySGT, USMC TJ Tejada, USMC, SGT Matt Amos, US Army, SGT Jim Sursely, (retired), with the events funds to be used to benefit the USA Shooting Team and WSF.

 

 

Each of the warriors was paired up with a member of Me, Matt Amos & Kayle Browningthe USA Shooting team; this year I was on the same team as SGT Matt Amos and USA Shooting Team member Kayle Browning, also known as our “sweeper”. Immediately, Matt and I began the traditional smack talk of who was going to out shoot who, both knowing that we were destined to ultimately lose to Kayle.

 

I was pretty good at demonstrating techniques that should not be implemented while Kayle was great at helping us visualize at what point in flight we should be leading the clay for a successful shot. Smack talk and instruction from one of the best shooters in the world makes for a fun entertaining day to say the least.

 

I was full on “revenge of the nerds” with scotch tape over my left eye to correct for eye dominance issues. My nerdiness was all part of the day’s fun because after all you should be able to at least laugh at yourself. With great effort, my attempt at outshooting Matt was without success but next year I hope to redeem myself.

 

Even having Kayle as our “sweeper” my team did not receive an award, I will take credit for being theMatt & Kayle watching Ryder on the gun. anchor that slowed our team down from a successful finish, as I do get credit for worst shooter on our team. Fun was had nonetheless.

 

After shooting, awards were handed out to top shots as we feasted on a fabulous BBQ lunch. It was very fun to see so many men in the kitchen for a change. Everyone took delight in the camaraderie that was shared and memories that will surely last a lifetime.

 

 

Wild Sheep Foundation Ladies Luncheon

The Wild Sheep Foundation 2013 Red Carpet Party, sponsored by Cabela’s was beyond a doubt the most beautiful and entertaining luncheons that I have ever attended. No detail was overlooked and the entire event was set up as a Royal affair making me feel like a Princess playing her role in a beautiful fairy tale.

Prior to entering, guests were greeted with a look alike celebrity line-up featuring Elvis, Zorro, Greek Warrior, Aladdin, a Nobleman and Charlie Chaplain. Walking through the doors was absolutely breathtaking. While you took in the splendor of the Grand Theater and silent auction you were greeted with a smile with champagne service. All of us took delight in playing “dress up” at the photo booth before moving on to begin staking claim at the many stunning items found on the silent auction tables.

 

Once seated at our exquisitely decorated table, we were delighted in the “Celebrity Runway” featuring in part the Cabela’s Outfit Her women’s camo series.

First lady Cindy Atcheson addressed the crowd followed by luncheon chairs Kelli Thornton, Pauline Rupp and Miki Jefferson.  Shane Clouse’s live performance was brought to a close by handing out beautiful long stem roses to some of the ladies in the crowd.

I was honored to be able to contribute to the event as the featured guest speaker, being able to reach out and help grow a thriving community of dedicated shooters, hunters and conservationists.  The luncheon was finalized with an incredible live auction. Participation in events like this, giving back, making a difference and helping to ensure the continuation of the time honored traditions that we hold dear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My speech for the luncheon~

My love of the outdoors and hunting started when I was a very small child. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I spent a lot of time on the back of my mule (and best buddy), Sam.

As a family, we loved being in the outdoors and we spent nearly every weekend in the wilderness camping, hunting and fishing the high lakes. As early as the age of 5, I would spend the mornings helping my dad catch and tie up our grazing mules.

I remember that I could hardly wait to head back to camp with a proud sense of accomplishment, knowing that my mom was there waiting for me with a full cup of hot chocolate, the delicious aroma of breakfast on the griddle.

Today, I am still a lot like that little 5 year old girl, coming home from a long hard hunt, unloading the mules from the trailer. I still feel that sense of accomplishment and pride, this time knowing that I bring a bounty that is sure to provide hot meals for my family. And just like when I was 5, my mom greets me with open arms and a home cooked meal.

I believe that life’s lessons are best learned in the field with your family and friends by your side, helping you to develop sound personal character and values. The time that I spent in the backcountry as a kid with my family transformed my life and created the entire core of who I am as an individual.

My parents always taught me that there was no such thing as goal or a dream that is too big to make into a reality. Learning the value of setting goals and creating my own success started with small moments in the field: as a kid learning to handle, ride and pack mules, learning to call elk, learning how to strategize in the field, and ultimately gaining the skills to hunt solo on public land.

Experiences in the outdoors when I was making decisions to do the right thing, not the easy thing, helped me develop ethics and realize the value of perseverance through adverse weather conditions and fatigue.  I learned to dig deep and most importantly, to find purpose within myself and always keep going.

Hopefully every woman in this room shares memories similar to the ones that I just shared with you, whether it reminds you of your own childhood or from the memories that you are creating today with your own children, grandchildren or a child that you may be mentoring while hunting, outdoors or in camp.

Now is the time for us all to give something back. As hunters, we were the first crusaders for conservation and remain today’s most important leaders in conservation. As women we hold the key to the future of these time honored traditions.

We are in every hunting camp, our love is seen and felt with a cooler stocked with yummy food, a batch of homemade cookies, or a hot cup of cocoa for a child. When you are tired or cold maybe down on your hunting luck having something that was made by someone who loves or cares for you is priceless even if they cannot be with you.

Women are making a difference by helping new hunters understand the critical role that they play in the conservation of wildlife and land stewardship. By taking the time to mentor a child, be that positive role model, voice of encouragement and inspiration, helping to build their confidence and self esteem you are taking the first steps that will create a lifetime of learning for new hunters. Oftentimes, a well placed compliment will reside with a child for their lifetime.

Nothing compares to watching a child catch their first fish, shoot their first bow or simply enjoy stories around a campfire surrounded by family and friends. While I was up elk hunting with my dad a few years back I ran into some friends who knew a little girl by the name of Skylar who had been blessed with drawing a coveted once in a lifetime Oregon California Bighorn Sheep tag. Skylar was only 11 years old when the season began and she had to wait three long agonizing days until her 12th birthday to hunt. Fortunately for me, those few days allowed me the opportunity to get to know Skylar as we were camped across from each other. I was chasing my dream bull elk while she was literally dreaming about getting old enough to begin her hunt. 

After getting to know this remarkable young lady, I volunteered to forego my elk hunt with the hopes that Skylar and her family would allow me to accompany her on her first hunt and be a part of this once in a lifetime experience. Skylar’s first hunt was also to be my first sheep hunt.

Together with her father Russ, aunt Whinnie and myself we set out in pursuit of Skylars ram on her 12th birthday. The first day out hunting, Skylar lay prone on the mountain with a 160” ram bedded in her scope for literally hours. Passing on the opportunity at the 80 yard shot, knowing that a larger ram also lay just out of sight. The weather moved in and with it came the fog and the hunting grew tougher.

Skylar was not completely prepared with clothing for the conditions to change in such a rapid manner, so I gladly supplied her with gear so that we could continue our pursuit of her dream ram.

This little girl hunted for three days, daylight to dark in some of the steepest, most rugged mountain in Oregon in adverse weather that would have nearly anyone struggling, all with a bright smile on her face.

On the third day of her hunt, we were finally able to connect on a public land, DIY California bighorn scoring 170”. The great part about this hunt is that I too was then able to phone my dad with the news of our success, give him our location and while we field dressed Sklyars ram, my dad made the journey with our mules to help pack out her trophy.

This hunt united the entire mountain, Skylar with her family, me with my family and what seemed like the entire town all together. When we arrived at the trail head weary, Skylar was greeted as the town hero. Her mission had been accomplished. Her smile was bold and bright.

The entire community had scouted all summer helping to locate the band of rams that she was able to hunt from. The entire community celebrated that day.

I feel blessed to serve as a volunteer and mentor for youth hunters helping to create a thriving, dedicated community of new hunters that are well-equipped with outdoor skills, shooting fundamentals, hunting ethics and conservation principals.

Women making a difference….

Studies are now showing that more than 3 million women are now hunters and more than 5 million women are now enjoying shooting sports. What a great way for us to get outdoors away from the distractions of phones, iPods and television. A time for friends and family to reconnect, share some laughs and love the great outdoors. There are some amazing womens organizations out there such as:

Shoot like a Girl, who are dedicated to growing the number of women who participate in shooting sports.

Becoming an Outdoors Woman which is an educational program offering hands on workshops to women with over 20 classes to choose from.

NRA womens shooting programs that are conducted at the local level in communities around the country.

The Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience which is a three day hands on event, one of which is brought to you in part by the Wild Sheep Foundation right here in Reno NV, introducing youth to shooting sports, fly tying, archery, wildlife management.

Within all of these programs participants find expert guidance and education, ensuring the development of safe habits, gun safety and ethics.

Our mission as women and as hunters is to educate, empower and inspire others, with the goal of giving others the confidence to try out new outdoor activities. To continue this legacy, your commitment and support is needed.

I encourage all of you to contact one of the many volunteers of the Wild Sheep Foundation about how you too can get more involved.

Please enjoy the many amazing items found on today’s live auction keeping in mind that proceeds from the auction may be directed to further youth education and outdoor programs.

Participation in events like this, we are giving back today, making a difference today helping to ensure the continuation of the time honored traditions that we hold dear. Thank you all for being here today, your support is appreciated!

 

 


USA Shooting Team/WWO Sporting Clays Tournament

Every year the Wild Sheep Foundation hosts a sporting clays event with the USA shooting team as a fund raiser for the WSF. This year the Wounded Warrior Outdoors group, including active duty Marine Corp members GySGT Brian Meyer- USMC, SSGT Charlie Linville- USMC, SGT Matt Amos- USMC, SGT Jim Sursely-US Army (retired)- WWO Warrior Mentor were all attended and supported the fundraising efforts for WSF.

Prior to the sporting clays tournament beginning, the warriors were able to receive individual shooting instruction and technique directions from multiple instructors that were present at the shoot. For all but one of these men, this was the first time shooting shotguns since their in combat injuries were sustained.

Jumping on the back of the Ranger with SSGT Charlie Linville, I knew we were destined for a good time. Fortunately for me, the other two members of our team were very skilled sporting clays shooters. My team included SSgt Charlie Linville, Dick Flannigan, Dan Lavach, and Ralph Felices.

My team’s expertise really helped me along throughout the course taking the time to help me visualize how the clay was going to fly and where would be the “ideal” points in flight for me to squeeze off the trigger. They even began teaching me when and how to anticipate the lead on the clay pigeon.

I was really excited to show off my excellent shotgun skills to the USA Shooting Team…okay, truth be told, I have no shotgun skills, so instead,  I took every opportunity to share a laugh with my team and the team behind us. We all ended up having a great time on the range!

After shooting, awards were handed out to top shot teams we feasted on a fabulous BBQ lunch and had the opportunity to visit with all of the attendees.

The event is sponsored by Krieghoff International & Pacific Sporting Arms with the proceeds of the event going directly to The Wild Sheep Foundation for the protection of habitat, enhancement wild sheep populations and protection of hunters rights.