|September Success Stories|
Bear Hunting Success by Tyler Franks It was quiet, really quiet, but neither of us knew what to say. It had all happened so fast; one minute we were looking at a candy-filled stump, the next, there he was, our target, the black bear. It had happened just like our host and guide, Rich Kirchmeyer, had said it would happen. They come in quick, quiet, and without any warning. One could describe the next 60 seconds as “silent chaos” as I tried to get Austin set, wait for the bear to provide shot opportunity, have cameras in focus and recording, all while trying to remember to just breathe. Our shot opportunity came as quick as the bear did, Austin pulled the trigger, and I couldn’t believe what I saw next. The bear just stood there, as though nothing had happened. In all actuality, he only stayed around for a few seconds before running off, but it felt like 5 minutes. That is when it got quiet, real quiet. We both knew he had missed. This was a key moment in the hunt. It was still the first morning of what would be an incredible trip, and we had to keep our heads up while staying positive. I have only been with Kicking Bear since late 2019 but quickly realized that the entirety of this hunt was exactly why Kicking Bear was founded. Austin is a great kid and going through some extremely unfair and difficult life circumstances. Kicking Bear was generously provided a coveted Zone A bear tag by Steven Heiting. Zone A tags take 7 to 10 years to draw and the incredible tag was quickly paired with an incredible host and guide Rich Kirchmeyer. Rich spent the summer preparing for Austin’s hunt. Baiting five different locations at 4:30 am every morning, Rich donated countless amounts of time, lost sleep, and money to provide Austin with the best opportunity possible. It was such a blessing to be a small part of such an influential hunt. Over the time span of only a few days, Austin was shown the love of Christ and the beauty of God’s creation, which is the exact reason why we do what we do. We found ourselves back over the same bait pile in the same stand later that afternoon after the morning miss. Austin had done a fantastic job of staying positive and determined, wanting to get right back out in the stand after a quick lunch. We were all thankful the shot had been a clean miss, and Austin joked he had missed on purpose to not end the hunt on the first morning. Rich joined us in the stand, and we found ourselves trying to muffle our many laughs and voices for the many hours over the bait. As Austin was about to help himself to another snack serving of bear bait (gummy bears), it suddenly happened. Rich and I both looked out over the bait to see the bear step out into the clearing. Austin almost rolled his eyes as Rich and I began excitedly whispering “bear bear bear!” in unison. Perhaps the multiple joking “bear appearances” had resulted in a “boy who cried wolf” scenario. But Austin could tell something was different and was quickly introduced to the adrenaline rush that every hunter experiences. Same bear, same spot, but much different result. Austin pulled off a perfect shot on the bear, which was quickly found only 30 yards from the bait site, and the celebration ensued. Hugs, handshakes, and pictures followed. We were blessed with a great bear for a great kid which provided memories that will last a lifetime.
Veterans’ Hunts by Ray Howell
As we are doing our youth hunts, the veterans’ hunts started at about the same time. Every year I’ve had the privilege and honor to work with the Kicking Bear team in Maine to take veterans in the outdoors on moose and bear hunts. This year again, was an absolute blast! The day starts out at 3:30 in the morning and doesn’t end until after midnight. Many of the volunteers are members of the Wildlife Service and the State Patrol. Upon my arrival and meeting all the veterans from across the country, I realized there is a brotherhood among them that is second to none.
In Maine the broccoli fields and cauliflower fields are like oceans across the land with small woodlots attached to them everywhere. Its hard to believe that these giant critters, called moose, are thriving in these areas. They gorge themselves on the crops to the point that there are too many moose and feces in the fields. The FDA shuts the fields down and the landowner isn’t able to harvest those crops. In order to control the herd, they issue defamation tags.
Since 2009 the State has conducted 5-week controlled hunts in central Aroostook County to help farmers who’d been losing crops to hungry moose. Moose love broccoli. The broccoli fields are surrounded by classic moose habitat making the cropland perfect banquet grounds for the moose. The number of permits originally issued was 100 but is now down to 25.
Smoldering Lake Outfitters is a location where we’ve had KB events for many years. Along with that, Dave Hentosh the CEO of Veterans Afield, has been bringing warriors in to take part in these hunts.
One of the most uplifting things to me is how the landowners relate to the veterans and welcome them with open arms because of the sacrifices they’ve made and their love for our country.
As a new group of veterans comes in on a weekly basis, the first thing they do is sight in their rifles. These men and women have incredible accuracy with their weapons. I’ve learned so much, not only about weaponry, but in the meaning of what a true “sheepdog” is. These are anointed warriors who put themselves in harm’s way to protect others.
There are so many stories to tell, it’s hard to know where to start. This year, Michael Ritchie from KB Chapter in Roscommon, MI, joined us and we hunted together with Vietnam veteran Dan. Dan was also from MI. Michael relayed this story about what Dan shared with him: “I had just gotten married 2 months prior to my deployment to Vietnam. If Nam was scary, the typhoon we were in on our way there was worse. The waves were so high it knocked the radar off the mast of the ship. You never saw a bunch of rough and tough Marines pray so hard. Each man was issued 3 life jackets because the ship was expected to break in two. Needless to say no one ate much on the way. Fast forward two months, I was sitting on a hill waiting for the boat to arrive to take our unit to do a search and rescue mission. I was torn up because my wife of four months had just sent me a “Dear John” Letter. I was depressed and homesick when the Lord said to me ” Danny, do you want to come home now?” No Lord, I want to survive and be reunited with my wife” Danny replied. Just then 5 shots rang out and the sickening sound of a bullet flew past me and hit the guy right next to me. I knew from then on I would never have to be afraid.
This year Danny and his wife Lynn celebrated 54 years of marriage. He completed 18 months in Vietnam and came back home amid protests and disrespect for him risking his life for our country. The moose hunt went a long way to honor my friend who went to war so we could be free.
It was humbling watching Michael and Dan working as a team to get into position to harvest a moose as Game Warden, Jeremy Judd, was doing the calling. It was physically difficult for Dan to move through the rough terrain, because he had leg injuries that caused him to be unstable, so Michael and Jeremy helped him walk by lifting him by the arms. The three became “one”!
It was incredible to watch Jeremy coach Dan and keep him calm as the shot opportunity was going to present itself. Dan harvested his moose on the third day of his hunt. Then the work began! The whole team came together to take the moose out, take it back to the Smoldering Lake property, and hang it on a large pole where they could skin it out and quarter it. I’ve witnessed these men and women stay up until 2:00 AM in the morning taking care of whatever needed to be done for the processing. Then the alarm rings at 3:30 AM and we are off with a new veteran!
Crystal is another veteran I won’t forget. She harvested her moose on the first day and it’s difficult to describe the outright joy she has in her heart. Twenty years ago she was hit with shrapnel and was severely injured, but today you would never know it. She is a purple heart recipient. Crystal wanted to hunt a bear so we got her set up. Dave Hentosh is one of the most incredible guides and outfitters I’ve ever met. He has a sixth sense with the animals. He put Crystal right in the “golden chair” and at around 6:30 PM a large male black bear walked into the baited area and Crystal made another perfect shot! The bear ran off into the dark timber and when we recovered it, you should have seen Crystal’s face. She was glowing and smiling and hooting and hollering with joy at the top of her lungs!
On Sunday morning I attended church with some of the veterans. What an amazing feeling it is to be sitting with God’s anointed listening to His Word. Sunday is a day of no hunting, so I spent the whole day in fellowship with everyone.
The hunt was winding down to the last couple of days and I met Brad Lang, who I would be hunting with, and State Patrol Officer David Trap. Dave Hentosh was also part of this hunt. At 3:30 the next morning we left the lodge and headed to a place called “The Field of Dreams”. Brad humorously calls himself the “man with no legs”. He is a Marine veteran and his job title was Explosive Ordinance Disposal (OAD) Technician. Combat engineers would sweep an area with metal detectors before the OAD crew would come in. This sweeping was about 50% accurate. As he was defusing two mines that were close together, they started taking on heavy enemy fire. Brad told his crew that they should back out and return when it was safer. He turned around, took two steps and stepped on a third mine. He remembers the dust flying in the air along with himself. He was thrown 6-8 feet into the air and stayed conscious through the whole ordeal. He was then transported by helicopter and could not remember the next month and a half of his life; this changed his life forever! You would never know that he has the injuries that he has. He’s one of the most upbeat, incredible men I’ve ever met. He can physically do what any man can do and never once has pity on himself about his injuries.
DNR Warden Josh Haines and Dave Hentosh were our guides. What an incredible morning! We had it set up that his rifle was strapped to an electric 4-wheeler in order to be able to move him across the rough terrain as we were searching and calling for moose. As we were setting up, three moose crossed an open field in front of us but there wasn’t enough shooting light for him to take a shot. Dave and Josh kept calling and raking the trees trying to get a bull to answer. I stayed with Brad watching everything that was unfolding. Twice we had bulls come into us, but they wouldn’t come out of heavy cover for a good shot and they would disappear back into the woods as quickly as they had appeared.
The rut was just starting, and the bulls were getting nervous really easily. A few hours went by, with us moving from one area to the next. Dave and Josh split up on both ends of the field with woodlots all around us. The reason the bulls were getting nervous was because they weren’t see the cows. Josh was raking the trees with a paddle making an incredible sound imitating a bull. Dave was calling like a female moose looking for a mate. Then it happened! Office Trip signaled us that he could see a bull. We quickly turned around and got Brad into position as I could see the bull coming through an open field coming to the calls. It seemed forever for Brad to squeeze that trigger but when he did, it was a perfect shot. The bull expired immediately. All of us were standing out there high-fiving and hooting and hollering like a bunch of little kids. We could not believe what God had just blessed us with.
It was one of those days where you had to pinch yourself because it was really happening. This year we helped the veterans harvest 16 moose and 15 bears.That afternoon I had to be at the airport to leave for home. I was excited to be going home to be with the “gift” that God gave me and to tell her all the stories of all these heroes that I got to spend time with chasing critters in God’s creation.
Kicking Bear Centershot Family Fun Day by Bryan McGrath
On Saturday, September 26th, Kicking Bear Ministries partnered with Centershot Ministries and welcomed 55 youth, ages 5-15 to the Family Fun Day at Living Word Christian Church in La Crosse, WI. Each child was supervised by a parent, or an adult mentor and came to enjoy this day of remarkable fall weather, archery, fun and games! This event was an absolute hit especially for several young archers who surprised themselves by hitting the bullseye although never having shot a bow and arrow in their lives. Aspiring youngsters over the age of 8 also learned how to safely throw a tomahawk—many putting a young Daniel Boone to shame! At one station, kids were trained to specifically work on their archery form; at another station participants were able to witness the Mathews Genesis “LifeBow” explained in detail, with each color representing the Gospel message. There were numerous decisions for Christ.The younger girls also enjoyed making bracelets at still another station. There were prizes for all participants donated by Kicking Bear Ministries.
This Family Fund Day is just the beginning! The Centershot program is an 8-week archery program that meets once a week and helps youth develop their archery skills while learning the basic Gospel message through Bible study lessons. Youth in this program will be encouraged not only in their archery skills but also in basic Bible truths that will help them now and in the future!
We would like to give a special thanks to all the volunteers and the generous donations from so many that made this event possible. In 2021, Living Word Christian Church of La Crosse, WI plans to sponsor the Centershot archery program onsite. Contact Bryan McGrath at (608) 792-7349 for more information.