For the fourth year, the Utah Freedom Hunt took five wounded warrior veterans on elk hunts. The Utah Freedom Hunt is a non-profit organization whose mission is to give wounded vets outdoor hunting and fishing outdoor experiences. Utah chapters of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation are the largest donor, giving a $6,000 state grant.
The 2018 Utah Freedom Hunt received a major donation from R & K Hunting which donated guides and its beautiful Queen’s Mountain Lodge, southeast of Evanston, Wyoming. Ted Kimball, one of the principal owners of R & K Hunting, arranged the veterans and the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish acquired donated elk licenses from Wyoming residents who donated them. Broadbent Ranch Hunting Manager Brett Baum headed up four professional guides; all very experienced and the best of the best. Mark Oz, well-known survivor of Benghazi, had just been hunting with these guides and harvested a beautiful bull. R & K Hunting hosted numerous hunts in the past for deserving wounded warriors and their generosity is much appreciated.
Our hunters were Bill Lejeune, Nik Pino, Joel Sinner, Dustin Acord and Stephen Dawson. Lejeune, Pino, Sinner and Acord all served together in Afghanistan. Dawson also served in many of the same places in Afghanistan the others did. The veterans support staff arrived Thursday, November 8th and stayed through Sunday, November 11th, Veterans Day! Very appropriate! Freedom Hunt Board of Directors’ JD Rigby, Kurt Shepherd, Bryan Masters and Bill Christensen were support staff. All cooks and bottle washers supported head chef Kurt Shepherd. They prepared and cleaned up all meals leading up to the Saturday night’s grand meal of ribeye steaks, shrimp, loaded baked potatoes, and all the trimmings. Guests included Kimball and members of the Broadbent family, owners of the beautiful ranch where the veterans hunted.
Every veteran received rifles, scope, binoculars, and full sets of camo, ammo, knives and many more gifts that were presented at the Salt Lake Chapter fall banquet. Major donors besides RMEF and R & K Hunting included Vortex Optics, King’s Camo, Barnes Bullets and many more.
Four of the five veterans took antlerless elk. By Saturday we were all part of this special elk camp. We shared many laughs, some tears, hugs and made life-long memories.
“The excitement on the faces of the veterans made this event amazing. What an opportunity to honor those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom,” said Ron Camp, RMEF regional director. “They were humble and proud to serve our country. What an honor it was for us to recognize them with this hunt.”
As we left Queen’s Mountain Lodge, our hearts were full of gratitude for the service these brave soldiers gave us and our country. As I drove home I reflected on this Veterans Day and said a silent prayer of gratitude for all the men and women who served, fought and dies so we can enjoy elk country with our families and friends.
Freedom Hunt Board Member & retired RMEF Regional Director