Disabled Vet Gets Wyoming Elk Hunt Through Donated Tag

A disabled veteran from Minnesota can live his dream of hunting elk in the Cowboy State, because somebody from Wyoming anonymously donated their elk tag.

Mark Heinz

August 22, 20235 min read

Michael Frederick is a disabled Army vet from Minnesota who will get to hunt for Wyoming elk in the upcoming rifle season thanks to a donated tag.
Michael Frederick is a disabled Army vet from Minnesota who will get to hunt for Wyoming elk in the upcoming rifle season thanks to a donated tag. (Courtesy Photo)

A disabled combat veteran from Minnesota said he can’t wait for October to arrive, because that’s when he gets to come to Wyoming to hunt elk thanks to an anonymous donor giving up his own elk tag.

“I’ve never hunted in Wyoming, and I’ve never hunted any really big game. The biggest I’ve gone is Minnesota whitetail (deer),” Michael Frederick told Cowboy State Daily.

Frederick, who is about to turn 40, served with an Army National Guard unit in Iraq and Kuwait. He is designated 100% disabled by the Veteran’s Administration because of post-traumatic stress disorder, nerve damage and other health problems associated with his military service.

Now, he’s looking forward to coming to Wyoming in mid-October to hunt during rifle season. He’ll be hunting with general elk tag— which somebody in Wyoming bought, but then gave up so a disabled veteran like Frederick could have a chance to hunt here.  

‘Terrain Is Sight Unseen’

Frederick said he’s been an avid hunter his entire life.

Fortunately, the nature of his disabilities has left him mostly mobile, so he’s confident he’ll be physically capable of handling an elk hunt at about 6,800 feet in elevation northwest of Saratoga.

And although he’s lined up access to some private property there, he won’t have any time to scout the area. He plans to arrive the day before rifle season opens.

“The biggest challenge for me is going to be that the terrain is sight unseen,” he said.

His visited with some Wyoming elk hunters via social media, but says he completely understands why they’re not willing to give away too many details about their elk hunting hot spots.

He’s arranged for a place to stay in Saratoga and is optimistic about his chances of bagging an elk.

“I’ll probably get runed by the fact that I’ll be sleeping in a normal house and I’ll have access to 2,000 acres of private land,” he said with a laugh.

He added that if the hunt goes well, he’d like to return to Wyoming in the coming years and try his hand at archery hunting for elk.

“I want to be there and hunt archery during the rut (elk mating season). I want to see that. I’ve heard that it’s just insane,” Frederick said.

Not Unfamiliar With Elk

Frederick has traveled through Wyoming a few times, has family in Colorado and has spent time in Arizona. So, he’s at least seen elk.

He entered the drawing for Arizona elk tags several times, but was never successful, so he wasn’t certain if he’d ever get a chance to actually hunt the big beasts.

There are few elk in Minnesota, but many of them are kept on private hunting reserves, which Frederick said he’s not interested in.

 “There are places where you can go and pick the size of the elk you want to shoot, and then they set it loose on their land and you can go shoot it. And to me, that’s not hunting,” he said.

“There are a very few truly wild elk in northern Minnesota,” he added.

How Tag Donation Works

Frederick said he can’t thank the Wyoming tag doner enough. He found out about the hunting tag donation program only recently, and was pleasantly surprised when he was told that he’d been picked as a recipient.

People in numerous states can buy hunting tags, and then donate them back to the state, said Jake DeLong of Springfield, Missouri, who helps run a hunting tag donation program.

The tags can be distributed back to disabled veterans or other specially qualified hunters. But they must go through a nonprofit charitable organization, he told Cowboy State Daily.

DeLong also is a combat veteran, having served in Operation Iraqi Freedom with the Army’s 1st Armored Division.

In 2017, he co-founded Vets 4 Huntin & Fishin, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works with state game and fish agencies to get donated hunting tags to disabled veterans. They lined Frederick up with his Wyoming elk tag.

Wyomingites so far this year have donated 10 elk tags and two antelope tags for disabled veterans through Vets 4 Huntin & Fishin, DeLong said.

Wyoming Connections

Vets 4 Huntin & Fishin started out working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and expanded to other states. It started working with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in 2019.

“Wyoming Game and Fish has just been fantastic to work with,” DeLong said.

He’s familiar with Wyoming. He has family just over the state line in Belfy, Montana. He also travels here frequently for his work with the Lucas oil products company.

His organization works closely with Wyoming’s Hunting With Heroes program for veterans. And he’s gone on a few Wyoming hunts with disabled veterans.

“I do like to participate. I don’t get to hunt with everybody, but I do like to participate when I can and also set people up with guides,” he said. “It’s cool to see what mother nature and the outdoors can do for combat veterans.” 

Mark Heinz can be reached at mark@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter