Out of the corner of his eye, Chris caught a glimpse of movement. When he turned his head, he was stunned to see that a bear had appeared out of nowhere. Like a ghostly apparition, it had seemingly materialized out of thin air in the woods where no living creature was just seconds before. Chris felt his heartbeat and breathing rate quicken as he realized that he was looking directly at his quarry.
Slowly and cautiously, the creature moved silently through the woods and began to circle the bait site in search of danger. However, hunger eventually overcame restraint and the bear began to move in to the bait barrel for a snack. Chris carefully raised his rifle and began to take aim at the bear.
As he took the safety off in preparation for the shot, an audible “click” echoed through the forest. Startled by the sound, the bear stood upright and then ran a few yards towards the safety of the woods. There it stopped and looked around for the source of the unfamiliar sound.
Unbeknownst to the bear, it had stopped in the middle of a small gap in the vegetation that gave Chris a clear and unobstructed shot. Sensing that he only had seconds to act before the bear bolted for good, Chris quickly took aim and squeezed the trigger. The report of his .30-06 shattered the peaceful stillness of the afternoon.
Mortally wounded, the bear staggered at the shot and dashed back across the small clearing before attempting to climb a tree for safety from the unseen threat. It only made it a few feet up the tree before collapsing dead to the ground.
Though events like these are no doubt familiar to many bear hunters all over the United States, this was anything but a typical bear hunt. The hunter was Chris Loll, a disabled Marine Corps veteran, and his Idaho black bear hunt was sponsored and organized by Send-A-Vet, an organization dedicated to helping veterans by taking them on outdoor adventures.
This particular bear hunt was one of dozens of events sponsored by Send-A-Vet over the past few years. The organization, which is headquartered in the State of Washington, organizes hunts, fishing expeditions, rafting trips, and other outdoor events in order to assist wounded and disabled veterans.
Rick Sutter and MarkDaniel Brasel, who are both veterans themselves, do most of the leg work involved in planning and organizing these trips. Their primary goal is to get wounded and disabled veterans out of their homes and into the outdoors. The trips are fully paid for by donations and they strive to foster a safe and fun environment for veterans to enjoy the outdoors.
Send-A-Vet also prides itself on recreating the familiar bonds that develop between members of the military when they serve together. Since virtually everyone on these trips, from the hunters themselves to the volunteers, is a veteran, they have been extremely successful in this regard and countless friendships have developed between veterans that met on trips sponsored by Send-A-Vet.
Over the years, they have helped countless veterans recover from physical, emotional, and psychological wounds suffered in Iraq, Afgahnistan, and numerous other conflicts all over the world. The response from these veterans has been uniformly positive. Chris Loll is one of these veterans and he has attended several Send-A-Vet sponsored events (including two bear hunts and a wolf trapping class) first as a hunter, and later as a volunteer.
According to Chris: “It’s an experience that really recharges and resets you and gets you out of the house. It feels good to be in that environment again because I really miss that camaraderie. It’s like stepping back in time: you’re not so high strung and I could just feel the stress melting away when I arrived.”
Experiences like this have been literally life changing for countless veterans, many of whom did not think that they would be able to enjoy the outdoors again after being wounded. Send-A-Vet specifically tailors all of their outdoor adventures to each individual veteran and can accommodate veterans with a wide range of physical abilities including veterans in wheelchairs and those with visual impairment.
Send-A-Vet trips are not just for serious hunters either. They have taken out many veterans who have never hunted before and can loan a rifle to a veteran who needs one for one of their sponsored hunts.
Don’t want to hunt? That’s no problem either. Send-A-Vet organizes other outdoor events, like fishing or rafting trips as well. Regardless of the event, their trips are very low key and you can participate as much or as little as you would like. If you would rather just sit by the fire or enjoy being the woods on a Send-A-Vet trip, they are perfectly fine with that too.
If you are interested in making a donation, visit the Send-A-Vet web site. Wounded or disabled veterans may contact MarkDaniel Brasel directly for information on how to participate in a hunt or other outdoor adventure.