Written By: John McAdams,
Featured In: Big Game Hunting Blog
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 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. 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 took aim.
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 and dashed back across the small clearing before attempting to climb a tree to safety from the unseen threat. It only made it a few feet up the tree before finally collapsing dead on 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 Washington State, 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 to volunteers, is a veteran, they have been extremely successful in this regard; countless friendships have developed between veterans that met on trips sponsored by Send-A-Vet.
Over the years Sutter and Brasel have helped countless veterans recover from physical, emotional, and psychological wounds suffered in Iraq, Afghanistan, 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 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 accommodates 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 many veterans out who have never hunted before; rifles can be loaned to a veteran who needs one for their sponsored hunts.
Don’t want to hunt? That’s no problem either. Send-A-Vet also organizes other outdoor events like fishing or rafting trips. Regardless of the event, trips are very low key and veterans can participate as much or as little as they would like. If a veteran would rather just sit by the fire or enjoy being the wood on their sponsored trip, they can do that too.
If you are interested in making a donation, please visit the Send-A-Vet web site at send-a-vet.org. Wounded or disabled veterans may contact MarkDaniel Brasel at [email protected] for information on how to participate in a hunt or other outdoor adventure.