Tuesday, April 24, 2012

One Wounded Warrior’s Hunt Of a Lifetime

By SFC Ronnie Gullion

I met Jimmy “the Mullet” and his business partner Mikeyduring a Wounded Warrior hunt at Smart Ranch Exotics in Texas.  They asked me to choose one of the well-deserving heroes hunting with me for a bonus Asiatic water buffalo hunt.

You see, Mullet man and Mikey are representatives of Darkwoods Blinds and were at the Smart Ranch to shoot some promotional videos for their exceptional handicapped-accessible ground blinds.  I did not want the pressure of choosing just one soldier to take part in this remarkable opportunity. I simply did not want to be the one to decide who’d get to experience the hunt of their lifetime and who would be disappointed. 

I suggested that we leave it to luck or fate. I told all of the more-than-willing hunters to put their military identification cards into a hat and let Jimmy pull out the lucky one.  Although I’m a Wounded Warrior as well, I was somewhat reluctant to place my ID into the hat because my hunting companions were also my heroes, and I wanted one of them to win the hunt.  With some poking, prodding and an order from my former Command Sergeant Major David Allard, I placed my ID into the hat as well.  Out of all of the IDs in the hat,of course, mine was drawn. Although I desperately wanted to participate in the hunt, I really wanted one of my guys to have the experience. I thought about giving the hunt to someone else, but that would have put me back into my original position of having to choose one person 

Jimmy and the others could see the guilt on my face and reassured me that they were glad that my name was chosen.  Jimmy then suggested we go out and do a little bit of scouting to get a glance at the animals I’d be hunting.  We all jumped into some trucks and headed out in search of buffalo.

Excitement and Apprehension

I could not have been more intimidated or excited when I finally laid my eyes on the biggest, most intimidating animal I have ever hunted.  I am just a mere country boy from Indiana who avidly hunts deer, turkey and an occasional enemy to our great country. The size of that animal intimidated me more than looking into the eyes of our enemy.  I knew at first glance how fortunate I was to be able to hunt this great being, and I no longer felt guilty or willing to give up this opportunity.

Once we arrived back to the camp, I was bombarded with well wishes and of course ribbing from my friends.  When I was offered the choice to hunt with a bow or a muzzleloader, it was a no-brainer for me to choose the bow. I wanted to take it to the highest level of difficulty so that I could experience the most intense rush. 

I was offered an Alpine bow, and in my excitement, I forgot to mention that I shot left-handed. I attempted to shoot the right-handed bow, but I did not feel comfortable despite hitting a decent group at 20 yards.  I knew I was about to go after one of the most aggressive animals on this planet, and I wanted to get it right.

I tried to shoot the bow left-handed, and thanks to the Alpine’s anti-torque guard and the Hindsight peep-less sight system, I felt comfortable and fired an arrow downrange.  Bulls-eye!  I shot my second arrow right into my first arrow. I was stoked. I moved out to 35 yards and practiced some more while growing accustomed to my new top-of-the-line shooting instrument.

The next morning we headed to the Darkwoods Blind that was strategically placed next to the watering hole.  But, much to our dismay, a heavy rain the previous night created numerous mud holes throughout the Smart Ranch, which prevented the buffalo from returning to the main watering hole. 

We waited and then watched as they arrived in the general area in an intimidating fashion, but they didn’t move close enough to present me with a clean shot before I had to return to camp.  I tried again that evening,but it just wasn’t in the cards.  The buffalo remained out of range even though the blind was well hidden from their sight.

Change of Plans

I had one day left to pull off the hunt, so we went on another scouting adventure with the hopes that the buffalo would head to the watering hole where the blind was located.  While scouting, we devised a simpler plan, or so we thought.  

We hoped that we’d be able to ambush the giant animals along their travel route. After locating the buffalo, we discussed moving the light and versatile Darkwoods Blind to another area. but it just didn’t seem possible due to the time constraints and the unpredictability of these creatures of random travel.  We decided to try a spot-and-stalk hunt instead. 

I felt nervous, excited, scared and about 30 other emotions rolled into one, and I began to doubt that my abilities and health were up to the task.  I put all of my apprehension aside and started my pursuit.  After hours of low crawling, climbing trees out of fear, spooking the buffalo, and near misses, I finally got within 20 yards of these creatures of mass destruction.  All of my doubts and fears disappeared as I pulled the bowstring back and placed the pin on the ticker of one magnificent animal.

Sweet Success

I released the Tru-Fire release and placed that victory arrow right in the kill zone of the biggest buffalo in the bunch.  I feared that I didn’t get a good hit on the prey, but as it ran away, I could see the blood spewing from its side. The buffalo ran so far I didn’t think it was going to go down, but then it stopped, staggered like a drunk on NewYear’s Eve and fell on its side.  All the fear, excitement, pressure and pride finally escaped me in the form of a bellowing YAHOOOOOOO! 

Jimmy, and David Leuba, the owner of Smart Ranch Exotics, were right there to witness the most intense moment of my hunting endeavors and were as blown away as me.  I felt so much pride and joy that all I could do was giggle, giggle and giggle some more.  Words could not explain the emotion that I felt that day, but tears of joy and overwhelming pride accompanying my giggles sure got the point across.

After examining the downed trophy we realized that this animal was extraordinarily big and quite possible the World Record Asiatic water buffalo taken by a bow.  At this point in time we are waiting for the official scoring by SCI to confirm our suspicions.  Bottom line, I don’t care if it even scores, but if it does, I am proud that I did it with an Alpine Bow, Victory Arrow, Muzzy Broadhead, Hindsight system at the Smart Ranch in the presence of my heroes David Allard, Marc Roen, Adam Peacock, Todd Shaw, David Jacks and Nathan Halsey.

 I would be remised if I did not recognize the gentlemen who made this possible, David Leuba of the Smart Ranch and Mikey and Jimmy from Darkwoods Blinds

If you would like to take a wounded American hero on an expedition, please contact Friends of American Heroes, Hunting with Heroes, Paralyzed Veterans of America.   This is a rewarding experience for all involved and a great way to show your appreciation for the sacrifices of the brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who have volunteered to protect the freedoms that most take for granted. 

Getting outdoors is a valuable part of our healing process, not only for those who have hunted and feel they cannot do so anymore, but for a first-time participant in an outdoor event.  It has been with great honor that I have served my country and it has been an unequalled honor to aid these great men and women in their healing process in the great outdoors.  The army uses a word most don’t understand and that word is “HOOAH”!  It means many different things at many different times, but to the Wounded Warriors of Fort Campbell, KY, it is an acronym that means Healing Outside Of A Hospital.

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