Back in August I published an interview with one of the co-founders, Brian Ophus, as part one of a three part series on our veterans who hunt. This is part two.
Meet Kurtiss Lamb, a retired US Army SGT who last year had the deer hunt of his lifetime courtesy of a unique non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to help disabled veterans return to the field – to hunt. During combat, severe damage was done to his right arm and shoulder. Kurtiss used to be right handed. Because of his injuries, Kurtiss had to learn to shoot his rifle left-handed and with a bipod or rest.
It was Kurtiss’ father who introduced him to the sport of squirrel hunting at a young age. Today, what he loves most about hunting is “just being in nature and seeing things in their raw element.
I also enjoy the challenge of hunting various types of game all requiring different skills. Hunting helps me de-stress, refocus, and reminds me that I can still achieve what I want in life.”
An Internet search for “wounded warrior hunting opportunities” turned up a result for the Wounded Warriors Guide Service. Kurtiss lives in Tennessee and says that he had always wanted to hunt bigger deer than what his native landscape has to offer. So after submitting his application via Wounded Warriors Guide Service’s online form, he waited, and in no time was contacted by the organizers who offered to fly him up to Bemidiji, MN where the deer are plentiful and big.
Driving from northwestern Tennessee to Memphis, Kurtiss caught a flight on the first leg of his trip up north. Several connections later he was back on the ground where Brian Opus, the non-profit’s organizer, met him at the airport before driving Kurtiss to a local sporting goods shop to pick up a MN hunting license. Then it was off to pal, Josh Wilde‘s, hunting lodge.
“Hunting always comes early in the morning. I believe we woke around 4 a.m. to start getting everything ready. Breakfast was cooked fresh that morning consisting of eggs, sausage, bacon, and hash browns with juice and coffee,” recalls Kurtiss. The hunting area, he says, consists of approximately 5000 acres with blinds at various locations around the property.
Wilde himself had conducted plenty of pre-season scouting to locate areas of heavy deer traffic. Scouting detailed enough to identify a specific deer, even giving them names in order to distinguish them from one another in conversation. Trail cams were strategically placed in these areas to capture images of the activity. “The area we were going to hunt was frequented by a deer he named “Emily”.” The area of northern MN that Kurtiss and the WWGS hunt is a very game rich environment.
“There were deer around absolutely every corner. It was a real treat to see so many deer in their natural environment.
Because it was breeding season we even saw a few younger bucks fighting and chasing does.” While Kurtiss and Josh saw plenty of deer the first morning, they had decided to hold out for bigger trophies. Hunkering down in a different spot later in the afternoon, the two men again, saw a lot of activity.
“There were several deer in the field feeding in front of us. It was nearing dark and we hadn’t seen any mature deer yet when we saw the deer in the field starting to act nervous. Their behavior changed and we could feel something was about to happen. Then, out of the woods to our left comes this monster deer!
He trotted in all proud and in charge acting like he owned the place. It was a beautiful 10 point buck.” It was Emily. “He muscled some of the smaller bucks off the field and started following some of the does around. I was a nervous wreck.
No matter how many deer you see, a trophy sized mature animal always gets your heart pumping. I got my rifle ready and on target.
I had my crosshairs on him but he was directly facing us. Not a good shot. I was hoping he would stick around for a minute and not run off. After what seemed like an eternity he turned broadside. Here it was, my chance, my opportunity.
I exhaled one final time and squeezed the trigger. He took a few steps and down he went. It was a perfect shot, a double lung heart shot. He was the deer of a lifetime. A beautiful symmetrical 10-point buck that field dressed at 190lbs. I had him! I had Emily!”
Kurtiss took Emily with a Remington Model 7 .300 Short Action Ultra Mag with a Leupold 3-9×40 scope. He’s had this rifle for almost 10 years and bought it because it’s lightweight – like a guide rifle – shoots very well, and is strong enough to take down just about any game you’d find in North America.
I asked Kurtiss if he has any hunting superstitions, he said “not really, but I make all my own rifle rounds. All of them have to be exactly the same weight, size, etc.” Kurtiss says he’s a very particular hunter and takes precautions to control his scent. He tries not to disturb the game.
The most rewarding part of the hunt, Kurtiss tells me, ”was having the opportunity to take the buck of a lifetime, and getting to experience all the support that Brian Ophus and the Wilde hunting lodge showed me. The WWGS and volunteers really made me feel welcome and I am grateful for that.” This was the first serious hunting trip Kurtiss had been on since being wounded. He had the unique challenge of learning how to shoot left-handed instead of right. But despite his handicap, he said that he felt the most challenging part of the hunt was “controlling my emotions. The warmth shown to me by my guides coupled with the feeling I got as I glassed that trophy-sized deer made it difficult to remain calm and focused.”
I asked Kurtiss what he does in the off-season to stay sharp, and he told me, “I love to target shoot in warmer weather. It helps me relax and helps me keep my aim sharp. I also really enjoy fresh water fishing.” This season, Kurtiss plans on doing a little fall turkey hunting, whitetail deer, and after deer season, some predator hunting on family and public land. Coyote, fox and bobcat are popular predator hunts in Tennessee. Kurtiss adds, “I did enter a draw for the new Tennessee elk season. They only draw 5 permits a year, but maybe I will get lucky.” Maybe you will Kurtiss, we certainly hope you do.
Kurtiss also added in a post-interview email that with Brian’s help, he will be starting a Tennessee chapter of WWGS near his hometown and hopes to have it up and running by next Fall. The Northwestern Tennessee Chapter will offer various hunts including waterfowl, deer, predator, and turkey as well as freshwater fishing. This chapter will honor applications from TN, KY, MO, and AR, which will also serve as the chapter’s hunting grounds.
“By expanding the volunteer operations of WWGS, we look forward to helping even more veterans,” said Kurtiss.
In part three of Wounded Warriors return to the field I’ll go “on the hunt” with the Wounded Warriors Guide Service and bring home video and colorful photos of live action hunting with these amazing veterans. October is goose season!
Wounded Warriors Hunting