September 19: Elliot Ewer & Ryan Solum

Story told by Eric Grover

Every year I look forward to the annual hunt that takes place in Ladysmith, Wisconsin located in Beautiful Rusk County, Wisconsin. The men and women of the SHOT Program (Safe Hunters of Tomorrow) come together at Bill Rand’s cabin to provide a hunt of a lifetime for two children with life-threatening conditions. This year, two boys (Ryan and Elliot) are chosen for this special hunt. Both of these kids are restricted to a wheelchair and will be the stars of this special hunt.

The boys are awarded three tags, each from Wisconsin DNR. Jeremy Peery, the local DNR Warden, volunteers his time to make this hunt take place. Each boy has a tag for black bear, a buck and doe.

I left home at 6:00 a.m. and arrived in camp around Noon. It was a rainy day with fall temperatures. Both boys were excited to go hunting. After sighting in their rifles, it was time to get on stand. My first night out, I sat with Elliot in a ground box blind overlooking a beautiful green food plot. Elliot was very excited to shoot his first deer. We had lots of good laughs with Elliot and DNR Warden Jeremy and Elliot’s Step Dad, Joe.

With shooting time only minutes away from closing time, a nice 4 ½ year old showed. Elliot was ready to make the shot when something spooked the mature buck. The buck turned quickly and was gone. After minutes passed and the buck worked his way back, Elliot was ready. He had realized he was blowing on the tube and he needed to suck in order for the sip-n-puff to work. With DNR Warden Jeremy lining up the sights, he gave Elliot the word to take him and this time Elliot sucked on the tube to fire the rifle. It was a perfect hit and the buck made his death run off the green field to the nearby woods. We recovered Elliot’s first whitetail, a beautiful 135 inch 10 pointer.

This was the start of what we would become the “Triple Play” for both boys. That’s right, both boys are amazing young men and after the first night out, they each had a mature buck down. Ryan had shot a nice 8 pointer from another ground blind.

The next morning, the plan was for both boys to hunt their first Wisconsin black bear. The local bear hunters volunteer their time and send their champion dogs after the elusive black bear working to tree a bear for the hunter. Starting at 6:30 a.m., two groups of bear hunters were making tracks and the first bear was treed at 1:00 p.m. It was Elliot’s group to put up the first bear. We loaded Elliot in the Argo and headed to the woods. Elliot made a great shot and his bear was down. It was an hour later when Ryan’s bear hunting group treed a second bear and Ryan filled his second tag with a nice Wisconsin black bear. Ryan made a great shot and brought the bruin to the ground. It was at this time that we realized that both boys had a chance to fill three tags in less than 24 hours (a Triple Play). With a lot of excitement in the camp, we prepared both boys for their final hunt. This time I teamed up with Ryan. He was in for a real treat! Bill Rands had built a new stand that was capable of holding at least five hunters so Ryan, his Dad, Bill, Tote and I headed to the field. When we got to this stand, I was in awe. This stand stood 31 feet off the ground and was set up with an elevated solution stand that was capable of taking Ryan and his wheelchair to the top. A four minute ride to the 8 x 8 box blind, a trip Ryan will never forget. The stand was created and built by Tony Benik (Tote) and Bill Rands. Bill says “Every handicapped hunter will want this stand so they can hunt from the air vs. the ground”, perhaps like they did prior to their misfortunate accident or illness.

With the rain and wind blowing, we still managed to see deer. With 23 hours down, Ryan made his third shot on a nice whitetail doe. He had completed the Triple Play! When we arrived back at camp, we were told Elliot had made a great shot as well and he too had three tags filled in less than 24 hours! This was another amazing hunt as well as a great gathering of a large group of very special people. The families of Elliot and Ryan will never forget the memories from this group of volunteers that go out of their way to create what they call a “Hunt of a Lifetime”. With an extra day in camp and all tags filled, we relaxed and took the boys fishing. A Big Thanks goes out to Bill Rands, Rico Nash, Tony Benik and Tyler Benik and all the volunteers. You all can be proud of what you do to help Magic Happen.