Proud of South Dakota

Wisconsin hunters enjoy a South Dakota Antelope hunt. Courtesy photo

OPINION — When our stars shine in a clear night sky and I watch a client catch their breath because it has been years since they have been able to see them, I’m proud of South Dakota.

When we creep through a darkened wood in the Black Hills National Forest, and the sun’s first rays paint a mountain meadow filled with bugling elk, I give thanks.

Outshining her spectacular views and gorgeous vistas, our world-class wildlife, and gentle rural evenings, I am most proud of our magnificent people.

This year, I was able to host disabled military veterans, one with his 82-year-old father, on an archery antelope and mule deer hunt.

Equipment failure and the fickle winds caused by our drought attempted to ruin their visit, but South Dakotan’s stepped up and did their best to ensure that they were well cared for without ever knowing their names or backgrounds.   

After decades in the business of guiding others on their first hunts, I am still amazed at how professional and cordial our businesses treat total strangers.

My wife believes that the wounded warriors returning from the Middle East might be among the last of our nation’s true heroes.

Increasingly, technology and computers fight our wars while viruses create our wounded.

Our capable military surgeons do their best to hide their scars, but so many carry wounds no one can see.

There were nights when sleep would not come.

The hunter’s eyes sank deep and his constant rocking with arms wrapped around his legs was the only comfort he could stand until the sun rose again.

You don’t hunt after an all-nighter like that.

You sit silently with your cup of coffee and hope you get a few more days of peace until the memories come back again.

The wildlife was wonderfully cooperative.

Herds of deer and antelope surrounded the hunters, and each was given shots at trophy animals.

But the initial arrows would not find their targets.

The father and son had taken 24 trips across North America and had the back of their hunting trailer covered in the assorted destinations represented by brightly colored advertisements from each state.

They showed me pictures from home with covered walls displaying the animals they had harvested.  

Missing a shot on a game animal was extraordinarily uncommon but the majority of their hunts had been with long guns.

When their rifle tags failed to be drawn, they turned to crossbows. Traditional equipment was no longer an option, taken by age and injury.  

On the second night on stand, the elder had an equipment failure that meant his hunt was over.

All the businesses that might have helped were closed. He held little hope that there were people in our area who could solve his issue.

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