My adventure started with a phone call from Hell-uva-hunt in Douglas, Wyoming. I had been chosen to hunt antelope with 11 other physically challenged hunters in the first part of October. Little did I know that this hunt would change my life.
Anticipation grew as the time drew near for me to leave Idaho Falls to drive to Douglas, Wyoming for my hunt to begin. Being on dialysis there is a lot of logistics that need to be taken into consideration in order for a hunt like this to take place. I need to have dialysis 3 days a week to keep my blood clean. The closest my clinic could find a dialysis center was in Fort Collins, Colorado. This was a bit out of our way according to our travel plans. Doing a little research on my own I found a clinic in Rock Springs, Wyoming which was exactly ½ way to our destination from Idaho Falls. Plans were made to do some dialysis on our way there and on our way back home making it possible for me to travel.
Monday morning came early as I went into my home dialysis center at 6 am to receive treatment for 6 hours before embarking on our adventure. Upon completion of my treatment my wife Gina and I jumped in the car with our sleeping bags, guns and goodies to start our travels East. 4 ½ hours later we pulled into Rock Springs and got settled into our hotel room (thank you Dr. Mike and Mary Davidson). Waking up bright and early I went to the hospital to receive my 2nd treatment for the week. I sat for another 6 hours before hitting the road again to make our last 5 hour drive arriving in Douglas at 8 pm. We got settled into the dormitory which would be our home for the next three days.
We met a few people that night before but the strain of having dialysis 2 days in a row took its toll on me and I had to call it a night. Upon waking the next morning we had some breakfast of Fruit Loops and a glass of juice before officially checking in and getting our welcome packet and meal tickets for the week. After having a great lunch of elk burgers and hotdogs, provided by the sheriff’s department of Douglas, we headed to the rifle range to sight in our guns and meet our guides for the week.
I set up to the far left of everyone else to see which gun I wanted to use. Immediately we were introduced to Gary Overture from Cody, Wyoming and Wayne Clark from Denver, Colorado who would be our guides for the upcoming hunt. We soon found out that Gary and Wayne had been volunteer guides for the past 30 years and soon found out why they would volunteer for so many years. Hell-uva-hunt is an amazing organization and the love and acceptance felt is out of this world. Many of the volunteers were past hunters wanting to create that special atmosphere that they had felt when they had the opportunity to hunt. There were 12 hunters and about 60 volunteers making this hunt a success. In fact, my guide Gary had his 2 sons Brett and Bart participating and his grandson Beau making 3 generations of volunteers.
I set up and fired my wife’s .243 and hit a little low and to the right. Adjustments were made and three more shots were put in the target. I then pulled out my 7mm Rem Mag and punched the paper 4 more times making sure it was lined up. Minor adjustments were made and then the guns were put away until the next morning. I decided I was going to take the .243 Savage and made necessary preparations to use this gun the next morning. They then moved us down the road to the trap club to shoot some skeet.
Having not shot skeet for over 20 years, I was a little nervous to get out there and show them what I could do. My balance wasn’t the best. I grabbed a 12 gauge double barrel and took my position. “Pull” and the target took flight but the gun wouldn’t fire. We then changed guns and I tried it again, still no fire when I pulled the trigger. “Da## Savage guns,” I cursed my guide and new found friend Gary. He then went and grabbed a Beretta Over/Under and put it in my hands again. “Pull” and the bird went flying into the air. “Bang” and the target blew apart. I guess I can still shoot after all. After shooting 25 times from 5 different stations, I ended up hitting 18 targets while needing to sit between each shot. After taking my last shot I went to the shade to relax a little. Well the 2 days of dialysis caught up with me and I almost passed out in front of everyone. Making my way inside I had to lay on the table and put my feet above my head to keep from passing out. After laying there for 20 minutes or so I excused myself and went back to the dorms to relax for the rest of the day.
Later that night we met up with our guides for some dinner and an awards ceremony for the volunteers and sponsors. After getting to know our guides a little more, plans were made for the next morning to start our hunt. Later that night I decided to use the 7mm Rem Mag the next morning.
We met the next morning to have breakfast of eggs and ham and then hit the road as we had to drive 60 miles to make it to our hunting destination. On the drive up we told stories and jokes as we approached the ranch. As we arrived at the gate it was shooting light so we began to look for my antelope. 15 yards inside the gate we saw a nice antelope at 7:05 am. We looked him over and being an idiot I decided to pass and look for another antelope. This antelope stood broadside at 50 yards and we later joked that Wayne told me it was too close. As we drove away Gary said, “that will probably be the closest one you see all day long.” As we looked for more antelope it became apparent that he would be right.
We returned back to see if I could find him again and he had disappeared into the night. We drove around looking and analyzing different antelope. After about an hour we found another antelope worth giving chase. As we parked above a water hole we watched him chase a doe for a few minutes. She then made her way down to get a drink and the buck soon followed. As he bent his head down to take a drink I took aim and he dropped with one shot. Excitement filled the cab of the pick-up truck and we made our way down to the fallen game. Wayne jumped out while Gary looked for a rope to get him out of the mud. Gina took it upon herself to walk on top of the mud and pull the antelope onto dry land. She bugged Gary the rest of the day saying that he was too afraid to get his boots muddy.
We then drove back to the trap range and took an official measurement followed by pictures with my guides by my side. Once again this activity wore my body out and I had to go back to the dorms for an afternoon nap. We then returned back to the trap range for lunch of sloppy Joe sandwiches and salads. Our guides then took us on a trip up to see a natural arch carved out into the mountain side. It was very beautiful. Upon returning we got ready for dinner and went to a benefit auction put on at the local Moose Lodge. There was a spotlight that my wife was interested in. She gave me a price limit and when the item came up for auction it quickly made it to our price limit and then passed. Lucky for us there was another spotlight available. By the time it became available people had been drinking quite a bit and so the price immediately went higher than our budget would allow. A lady at our table was bidding on the spot light but unbeknownst to her a man at our table was also bidding. By the time of the bidding was done she lost, but when they delivered the spotlight to the winner at our table she was disappointed. The man immediately gave her the spotlight which in turn she handed directly to me. Talk about some giving people.
Since all 12 hunters harvested their antelope by noon the first day, breakfast wasn’t until 8 o’clock the next morning. With the breakfast of eggs, pancakes and bacon we started on another great day. By this time we had got to know all of the other hunters. They came from all across the country. New York to Oregon and Minnesota to Texas. Great friendships were made and great times were had by all.
That night an awards banquet was provided and a plaque with our picture of our antelope and guides were presented to each hunter. Special prizes were given to those who shot the first antelope in the morning, the closest antelope, the furthest antelope away and the largest antelope. The first antelope shot in the morning was by Bill from North Carolina. He shot his envelope at 7:15. The furthest antelope away was shot by 15-year-old Hunter Jacob, at 250 yards. The closest shot was by Jared from Oregon, who happened to be up quadriplegic. His shot was at 50 yards. And surprise of all surprises my antelope was the largest with 13 inch horns. The prize for all four categories was a free shoulder mount provided by a local taxidermist. Following the banquet we had to leave immediately and drive the five hours back to Rock Springs, Wyoming so I could get up at eight in the morning and have another dialysis treatment.
Following my dialysis treatment, we got back into the car and drove the remaining five hours back to Idaho Falls, Idaho.
It was a great trip and I look forward to the day when I can volunteer and give someone else the opportunity to have one Hell-Uva-Hunt.
Author: Lewis Harper, JDHeiner Contributor and Avid Outdoorsman