January 14, 2008
Kentucky Veterans Enjoy Elk Hunts of a Lifetime
MISSOULA, Mont.— Five veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were recently welcomed home to Kentucky with news that they’d been selected for elk hunts of a lifetime, sponsored by grateful volunteers and supporters of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Kentucky servicemen receiving cow elk tags, fully guided hunts, tent camps, meals and more include:
Lt. Col. Gene Hughes of Union
Matthew Armstrong of London
Maj. Tim Culver of Cox’s Creek
Jeff Ford of Lexington
Lt. Col. Mike Farley of Corbin
Hughes’ hunt will be held later this month in New Mexico. The other four were held last month in Kentucky, with each hunter successfully taking elk.
In a letter to the Elk Foundation, Hughes wrote: “My father shared with me the sport of hunting…He taught me to respect the land, the landowner and the importance of fair chase…Since I was a young teen my dream has been to hunt elk…Your organization has tied two of my greatest passions together—my lifelong dream of hunting elk and my military career.”
The special hunts were made possible through a partnership between Elk Foundation volunteers and Kentucky’s Ataya Land Company, which receives elk tags from the state for herd management purposes. Normally sold at auction, this year’s Ataya cow tags were instead earmarked for Kentucky veterans. Elk Foundation members nominated servicemen and women, without distinctions of branch, grade or rank. Over 80 veterans were nominated. Hunters were selected through a random drawing with Kentucky Congressman Geoff Davis presiding.
Following the drawing, Hughes was re-deployed and unable to attend the Kentucky hunt. The upcoming hunt in New Mexico was scheduled around his return to the U.S.
Dennis Edmondson of Dry Ridge, Ky., the Elk Foundation’s volunteer state chair, said the hunts were gratifying for the hosts as well as the hunters.
“This was a unique opportunity to show our appreciation for servicemen and women of post-911 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In camp, we had volunteers from four different Elk Foundation chapters across Kentucky. They did everything from guiding hunters to cooking to maintaining camp. It was so rewarding to see dreams come true for these veterans,” he said.
Edmondson expressed appreciation for strong support from Natural Resource Partners LP., James River Coal Company, Taylor Orr and Green Hill Mining, and Frank and Anita Allen.
Sponsors also included the Elk Foundation, Ataya Land Company, Lancaster Outfitters and Outdoor Channel.