MARBLETON – Wyoming can’t give a wounded veteran back the leg he lost in war.
But it can give space, solitude and, for those who love the outdoors, the hunt of a lifetime.
That’s what the Sublette Chapter of Hunting with Heroes is all about. In this season alone, by the time it’s over, the group will have taken wounded or disabled veterans on five antelope hunts, two elk hunts, two deer hunts and one moose hunt.
That’s a fairly typical year, says Shane Lawrence of Marbleton, who founded the Sublette County chapter. He plans and coordinates the hunts with the help of his 16-year-old son, Aryln, and the chapter vice president, Joel Peterson, The actual number of hunts each year depends on how many hunters donate their licenses to the program.
“I think by the end of this year, we’ve have had 44 veterans so far who have come through the Sublette County chapter,” says Lawrence.
The program also depends on area ranchers and landowners making hunting territory available – and many do as a way to honor veterans, Lawrence said. High Lonesome Ranch, the Pape Ranch, the Ball Ranch, Mountain King Ranch, the Barney Ranch, all have been involved. So has CK Hunting and Fishing Camp, which gives veterans a place to stay.
“There’s a lot of people who want to show appreciation for our vets, but they don’t have the means to do it,” Lawrence said.
Hunting with Heroes gives them the means.
Lawrence served 13 years in the Wyoming National Guard himself, from 1987 to 2000 and narrowly missed being deployed in the first Gulf War. After the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, he saw veterans returning and could tell that some of them had been damaged by war. Making hunting opportunities available in Wyoming seemed a way to help them. As it happened, a Caspar-based group, Hunting with Heroes, was just forming.
Dan Currah, co-founder of Hunting with Heroes, said the Casper group is now in its fifth season and the Sublette chapter – now in its fourth – was the first chapter formed after Casper. There are now a total of eight chapters in the state.
All the vets who hunt with the program have a service-connected disability rating of 50 percent or greater as assigned by the Veterans Administration, Currah said, and they range from World War II vets up to the present day. The group only hunts in Wyoming.
In Sublette County, Lawrence said, the hunters so far have come not just from Wyoming, but also from Washington, Indiana, Kentucky, Colorado, California, Minnesota, Texas, Missouri, New York, Illinois, Oregon, Idaho and North Dakota.
If there were the support for it, Lawrence said, he’d someday like to set up a permanent camp in Sublette County for veterans who might not want to hunt, but just experience what else Wyoming has to offer – fishing or just being away from everything in the Wyoming high country.
But if that happens, he said, it would be sometime in the future.