By Mark Heinz, Outdoors Reporter
Joe Jaumotte can’t wait for his elk meat to get back from the butcher.
“It’s gonna be good eating, for sure,” the Bridger, Montana, man told Cowboy State Daily.
If it hadn’t been for Cody-based volunteer group Wyoming Disabled Hunters, it’s likely Jaumotte would have never had a chance to fill his freezer with tasty steaks, roasts and burgers from a Wyoming cow elk.
Ten years ago, Jaumotte suffered traumatic brain injury and was left partially paralyzed in a vehicle accident. But Wyoming Disabled Hunters made his successful hunt possible earlier this month.
“They took care of everything,” he said.
‘Compassion For The Animals’
The companion hunters on Jaumotte’s outing got him set up on a group of cow elk within a good shooting distance, his caregiver, Daisy Hoffmann, told Cowboy State Daily.
When he apparently missed the first shot, they took great care to make sure none of the elk had been hit, she said.
“They watched every little detail, there were even interpreting the elks’ ear movements to make sure they were OK,” Hoffmann said. “The compassion that the had for the animals was amazing. They were very knowledgeable and I loved their senses of humor.”
The Telltale ‘Thwop’
Jaumotte’s next shot resulted in the telltale “thowp” of a bullet striking a good hit, Hoffmann said.
Once the cow elk was down, the companion hunters were amazing efficient, she said. It took about 40 minutes to take photos and quarter the carcass for transport to a meat processor, she said.
With the hunt finished, she and Jaumotte had enough time to visit the Buffalo Bill Center of the West museum in Cody.
The only disappointment of the trip was barely missing a chance to see a grizzly bear in the wild, Jaumotte said.
“There had been one on a carcass where we were hunting, but he was gone when we got there,” he said.
More Than 300 Helped
Wyoming Disabled Hunters has been active since 2009. It offers deer, elk and antelope hunts in the Cody area for disabled people of all ages, including veterans with 50% or greater service-related disabilities, group president Terry Skinner told Cowboy State Daily.
In that time, the group has hosted 313 hunters from Wyoming and all around the country, ranging in age from teenagers to octogenarians.
Moreover, the success rate of the hunters has been about 90%, Skinner said.
“This year, 100% of the 20 hunters we took out got animals,” he said.
The group is an all-volunteer, registered nonprofit run by a nine-member board of directors, Skinner said. It relies on donations, as well as the help of local businesses.
Hunters frequently stay together at the Bull Moose Retreat near Cody, Skinner said. That lends itself to comradery.
“They can meet other hunters, swap stories, get to know others who are facing similar situations and network out from there,” he said.
Companion hunters go out into the field with the disabled hunters, acting as guides and helping with all aspects of the hunt from scouting out game animals to helping recover and field dress the carcasses, Skinner said.
Wyoming Disabled Hunters also has a full range of gear and equipment, including for all-terrain wheelchairs, he said. Those are wheelchairs outfitted with tracks, such as those on a bulldozer or snow coach.
Donated Hunting Tags
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has a provision by which residents may choose to donate their big game hunting tags to disabled hunters.
That’s the primary means that Wyoming Disabled Hunters gets tags for the hunters it hosts, Skinner said.
“If we are overrun with too many tags, we just send them back to the Game and Fish to be donated to other disabled or eligible veteran hunters,” he said.
The group can host roughly 20 hunters per season. Hunters must apply for a spot through the group’s website.
Wyoming Disabled Hunters | Bringing An Affordable Hunt To Disabled Hunters
The application period for the 2023 hunting seasons opens Thursday and runs through Jan. 28.
Those interested in volunteering also can visit the website, Skinner added.