In December of 2022, after twenty-five plus years of applying for a prized rifle Bull Elk tag, I was excited to learn I was finally drawn for an elk hunt in the Coconino National Forest area of Northern Arizona. Unfortunately, my excitement was quickly saddled when I became afflicted with a life altering illness that immediately started to affect my eyesight. In March of the following year, I was officially diagnosed with an incurable medical condition that affects the communication between my nerve endings and muscles, limiting both my mobility and vision. This is when Chris, a good friend and hunting partner, suggested, as a disabled veteran, I reach out and apply for assistance from the Heroes Healing Heroes Outdoors (H3O) non-profit organization, in order to make my once in a lifetime elk hunt a reality. After my application was accepted and a few very helpful planning sessions, prior to my hunt with members of the H3O organization, we arrived at camp and were ready for an adventure. I was joined by my son from Oregon and several volunteers from the H3O community of hunters. Having them in camp and in my corner to help in all aspects of the hunt was both beneficial and encouraging. Not only were they more than willing to share their experience and expertise, but they were prepared to assist in scouting, calling and do the heavy lifting that we all hoped would eventually come. It’s important to note that with all the assistance, everyone remained focused on the fact that it was my hunt and made sure that I had the final say in every decision of the hunt. It was our eighth day in camp and fourth day of hunting when I had the unique experience of sitting at a watering hole with Randy, one of the H3O volunteers, while he tried to call in a Bull for me. We had several bulls respond with bugles, but unfortunately, they quit responding after a while and we never saw them. This was the first morning since the hunt started that we had not seen at least a cow elk, but everyone remained upbeat and kept me positive. That same evening, after returning to an area where we had found a few fresh rubs, I was fortunate enough to put eyes on and make a good shot on a nice Bull Elk. It’s hard to explain the excitement and fear that overcame me at the same time. I got him…, taking a few steps and seeing elk head up a ravine, did I get him…, so much to process in a few seconds. Within minutes, my support system was by my side, including two other hunters (Tom and Keith) that became aware of the H3O mission and my hunt. They had previously seen the H3O banners in camp, and joined the group to help settle my nerves as we began to strategize the next steps. After a short track and some glassing, we found a 6x6 Bull Elk on the upper side of the ravine; it was a proud moment for me. That’s about the time when the sheer joy of the adventure, having shot my first elk, and the gracious notion of people helping people overtook me. With everyone’s amazing help, we had the elk skinned, quartered, meat trimmed, packed and transported to camp just after dark. I’d like to extend my appreciation to everyone who helped make this hunt possible and say a special thank you to the H3O organizers and volunteers, especially Gary, Chris, Randy and Ron for all they did to make this a successful hunt for me and the work they continue to do to aid other hunters in my situation. The companionship and camaraderie was great. It was my absolute honor and privilege to be on the receiving end of all their support!
Randy Oliver took Dan Sinnard to Parker Canyon Lake on October 25th.
Les "Bone Doc"
Now that I had a chance to reflex………. It’s easy to realize what a hunt is in its basic from ….people going into fields and forest to harvest animals for consumption and the tales spun by the hunter to amaze their friends and family. What most folks don’t get is that hunting and hunters are more complex than is given credit. Take for example the Elk Hunt I just finished a month ago……it started with a chance meeting of an organization that centered itself around Veterans and First Responders who have been injured in their chosen profession. Heros Healing Heros Outdoors is more than your average nonprofit organization. They provided me an experience that was more than the “hunt”. I got to spent time with wonderful people, which lead me to the forest of Northern Arizona. Krisp mornings with the sense of autumn in the breeze, the bulging of bull Elk and clean fresh air. An adventure of conversations in whispers, slow silent movement and the excitement of seeing a magnificent creature in its element. Taking in all the sights and sounds that normally aren’t realized in our fast and often complicated lives. The simpler thing’s appreciated, like a cup of coffee with like mind people weaving the bonds of friendship that last for years. The racing of your heart as the moment unfolds to find yourself looking through the sights at the next great event in your life. Or just sitting in camp talking about the day, family, joking, laughing and what awaits the next day. It’s the creations of memories, those things that create the pictures locked away in our minds. They keep us looking forward to the chilly morning when with a cup of coffee and a smile we venture off again to more memories of great times with great friends. H3O, my first Elk hunt was all these things and more. It gave me a sense of belonging only rivaled by my years as a Marine that I haven’t felt in a decade. It’s also given me a new direction in life, which I have embraced with the exception of memories yet to come. Thank you.