The Lodge hosted it’s last deer hunt of the season this past weekend. It was co-sponsored by Perfect 10 and the Oklahoma Station Chapter of SCI. A hearty congratulations goes out to Sgt. Josh Wofford of Jacksonville, Fla., for scoring a nice little 8-pt buck.
It was a hunt of opposites, of dichotomies; warm and cold temps, new friends and old, great coffee and BAD coffee, the beginning and the end. It was a time of action and time for reflection. Improvements were discussed, plans were made. New ideas sprung to life as we all looked back to previous hunts and excitement brewed with our minds towards the future.
The first night was unseasonably warm, and all hands were on deck by the fire pit for cold beer, warm bourbon and humorous tales. Back-up guide Mike Mistelske joined us this time and regaled us with his many stories of hunting abroad. Another back-up guide, Jarod Lamborn, stopped by for dinner on Saturday with a special guest, “Junior”, who is a WWII veteran. I started smoking my homemade pipe again after a long hiatus on cigars. A Bald Eagle was spotted by one of our hunt teams one afternoon. One of our hunters had a miss, earning his service colors (U.S. Army) another “streamer of shame”. We got to borrow a hydraulic-lift “Huntmaster” automatic blind from the ODWC, which was awesome. There was a coffee ‘incident’ when the supreme roasts of Double Shot Coffee Company were accidently replaced by a batch of Folger’s, which resulted in an embarrassing tirade where I punted the Folger’s can out the back door. Britani and Lauren joined us for buffalo tenderloin on Sunday night. There were many laughs along the way…and some tears as well.
What struck me most about this hunt is how we reflected upon how much we’ve learned since our first hunt back in October. Obviously, each and every veteran has had different experiences, and they all deal with their issues in different ways. Combat stress is relative; severity doesn’t necessarily determine the ill effects on one’s psyche. From my own experience, I’ve come to believe that PTSD is still a misunderstood condition and civilians often don’t really grasp the emotional and physical toll it can have on our returning veterans. I think the biggest disconnect lies with the transition back into normal society rather than the actual stress of combat itself. I’m no shrink, but to experience the horrid sights, smells, filth, and complete assault on all of your senses…to see death and destruction, to cause it and feel it among your peers, how it effects children, animals, to live under these conditions for months on end— and then before you know it, you are back on the block again, amongst uncaring and unknowing Americans. Dealing with meaningless angst, complaints about everything from the weather, gas prices and your Grande Carmel Machiatto being too cold, and nobody around you, including friends and family can possibly understand what being in a war zone is like. Factor in a debilitating, life-altering injury, and you are ripe for some serious issues to deal with. How you reintegrate and adapt to a callous public is where the struggle begins.
Some of our hunters have told me that they don’t like crowds or being around people very much, and they’ve felt comfortable enough to unwind a bit at the Lodge. They feel normal again, they say. This isn’t something you can legislate, plan for, or design. This, I think, has been our greatest success so far. The hunting, though fun and therapeutic, is truly incidental. It could be better, to be sure, but that’s the nature of hunting and herd management. We can improve our food plots, blind placement, and rack size but we cannot make better the bonds of warriors. It just happens….or doesn’t. The vortex either sucks you in, or passes us by on a thermal of smoke and embers from our hottest fires. We plan. And we hope that the flame continues.
Expect great things from the Bowman Lodge in the months to come. Next on our horizon is a pair of turkey hunts in April, including one with the PVA. We plan to make some much-needed improvements to the Warrior’s Walk trail and an 8-mile, single track mountain bike course. A 3-D primitive archery course is also in the works. Be looking for a charity sporting clays event as well, and an awesome t-shirt designed by RangerUp is forthcoming.
This has been a most incredible endeavor…powerful, moving, emotional, and rewarding beyond words. I’ve got so many people to thank it’s not even funny…ALL of our guides and staff, donors, friends and family, and all of you who support us with great enthusiasm. Most of all, we thank all of our wounded veterans who have taught us so much about them, their injuries, and about ourselves.
Here’s to the 2010-2011 season of the deer!