SCI Foundation Humanitarian Services continues to provide hunting and outdoor recreation opportunities to various groups, including youth hunters, hunters with disabilities, and veterans of our armed forces. Most recently, we were able to provide a once-in-a-lifetime bull elk hunt for a disabled combat veteran through a partnership with the National Rifle Association and Gunwerks. The hunting community, including nonprofits, like Safari Club International Foundation and the NRA and the hunting industry as represented by Gunwerks have a fundamental desire to honor veterans for their service. Partnerships with like-minded organizations that recognize the value of re-engaging veterans in outdoor activities can be truly rewarding.
The opportunity for this veteran hunt began with a call from Garrett Wall, Chief Revenue Officer at Gunwerks. Gunwerks receives a New Mexico bull elk tag and wanted to donate it to a worthy veteran. The guided hunt was scheduled for mid-November at NRA Whittington Center’s 33,000-acre hunting, shooting and outdoor recreation facility in Raton, New Mexico. Dave Kelner, Executive Director at the Whittington Center, arranged complimentary accommodations, meals, guide service and field prep for this special hunt. The next step was to select a worthy veteran for the hunt.
Working closely with Bob Adwar, from SCI’s Denver Chapter, we selected Denver resident Chuck Williamson from among dozens of veteran applicants. Chuck was deployed in Operation Desert Storm as an Army tank driver and served 16-years on active duty until he was medically retired from the Army as a Sergeant First Class. He has been a volunteer with the Denver SCI Humanitarian Outreach Program (SCI-HOP) since 2013, working to help other veterans find joy in outdoor recreation and build friendships through the comraderie they share. Chuck, a veteran who deals with the challenges of PTSD, gives back to other veterans by assisting them through SCI and the River Deep Foundation program to get out and enjoy the outdoors.
Veteran Chuck Williamson, his wife Susan; Ian Miner, Gunwerks Shooting Instructor; Eric Whaley, Guide and I arrived at the Whittington Center on Friday, November 20th looking forward to the weekend hunt. Jeff Parker, videographer for J. Alain Smith of Rugged Expeditions and with support provided by the Hunter Legacy 100 Fund, joined the group to document this special experience. Chuck and Ian spent the time before sundown to sight the 7mm SOCM Gunwerks rifle and even fired a few, 700-yards shots to prepare for the hunt.
The first day of the hunt Chuck hunted hard, looking over numerous bull elk. Navigating rocky hills and mountainous terrain, Chuck stalked a 6×6 bull elk to within 315 yards but couldn’t get a shot due to thick vegetation.
The second day of the hunt around mid-morning, Ian spotted a lone bull elk across the canyon. Chuck, Eric and Ian gradually closed the distance on the 6×6 bull elk until an intervening canyon prevented them from getting any closer. So, Chuck set up and with Ian’s oversight ranged the bull at 539 yards. Chuck settled into his stance and shot twice, hitting the elk both times in the kill zone. The bull traveled about 30-yards into some nearby cover. Everyone was holding their breath, waiting, waiting and waiting. Nothing moved across the canyon. Finally, we all worked our way around to the spot it disappeared and there it was. A perfect quick clean harvest with both shots placed at the shoulder. Finally, the group could high-five as Chuck had gotten his bull. The shots were so perfect that all quarters yielded maximum meat. On the other hand, this meant multiple trips to pack it all out.
Chuck was thrilled to successfully take his first elk. Because Chuck’s harvest yielded plenty of elk meat, he stated that he intends to share the harvest with fellow vets that are undergoing hard times. Chuck and Susan are incredibly grateful and feel very blessed for this amazing adventure. They expressed their sincere thanks to everyone who made this once-in-a-lifetime hunt possible.
For SCI Foundation and our humanitarian services program, this hunt truly represented a spirit of collaboration and partnership among the various entities. It demonstrates all our support for veterans and our appreciation for the sacrifices made by them and their families.