Bear Mountain Outfitters is fulfilling dreams and wishes with unique hunting experiences for those with disabilities and special circumstances.
Brad Probst, partner in Bear Mountain Outfitters, had formulated the idea of providing specialized hunts and already had an individual in mind for the trial run when he pitched the plan to Dave and Karen Hammer, the other partners in Bear Mountain Outfitters. They immediately thought it was a good idea and wanted to reach out to a young lady in Walden who could benefit from the experience.
So with the complete backing of his partners, Brad extended an invitation for the third rifle elk hunt, to Elliott Venable, a 26 year old with Down syndrome from Louisiana, and Courtney Ferrall, a 30 year old with more local ties from Walden. She was involved in an accident 12 years ago which left her paralyzed from the waist down.
“I just had such a soft spot for Elliott when I met his family in a previous hunt with his father. I really wanted to bring them back to Colorado for Elliott to have this experience as his own, and Courtney was someone that both Dave and Karen also knew. We were excited to make this happen.
We are in a unique situation that is doable for those with special needs,” Brad said of their set-up and their willingness to accommodate the needs of their hunters.
Even if it means, hiking with them on their backs. “Courtney was light enough, and Luke had the idea of carrying her piggyback for transport,” Brad commented of fellow hunting guide, Luke Miller of Kremmling.
Even though Courtney failed to take down an elk, Brad still considers the nine day trek a success. “We had Courtney two miles into the woods deeper than she has ever been, and we were able to get her within a 100 yards of elk three different times,” said Brad.
Courtney’s situation was made more complex with the careful positioning that was required to set her up on the ground to take a shot. Brad and Luke would sit her down and position her with her .243 rifle. They also had to take into account her limited mobility in her upper body that prevented her from tracking the elk with her rifle. The recoil of the rifle also had to be considered.
“This will be a hunt we will all remember,” Brad says of his family. Joe, his fourth grade son, was also along on of the one of the evening hunts, and at one point, Brad was belly crawling with Courtney on his back with a rifle in one hand and shooting sticks in the other.
Courtney said of her guides, “Brad and Luke poured their hearts out in everything they did for me. I learned more from this experience than other things I have tried. I learned about myself, my limitations and how far I could push my body and my mind.”
“This is a project very near and dear to our hearts,” said Brad. The rest of Brad’s family works behind the scenes. His wife Kelly serves as the cook for the hunters and his daughter Maddy also helps. Kelly says, “Our family has been blessed over the years to work and live in such a wonderful place.
Sharing the gift that is Bear Mountain with others who may not otherwise have an opportunity like this, is very dear to our hearts.” Elliott’s experience was different, but still had the ups and downs of hunting. “Elliott hunted for 8-10 hours a day beginning at 5:30 a.m.,” said Brad.
“There were days we would hike to the summit of the hill to spot the herd only to have the wind change,” Brad said of the frustrations experienced in the hunt. “On the fifth day, Elliott was able to take down his elk.” During this hunt, Elliott’s mom and dad hiked with him to be part of the experience, and his dad carried his 308 rifle until it was time to shoot, and then Elliott shot the elk without help. “We were able to give a legitimate and authentic hunt on private land to these two,” said Brad of the 10,000 acres between Kremmling and Steamboat Springs.
“We hope to be able to expand our hunts to four individuals next year, and we want to be able to take people with all special circumstances from senior citizens, to veterans and those with disabilities.” In an ideal situation Brad would like to strengthen community partnerships for the hunts. “This year was great. The weather was good and the herd of 500 or more of elk never moved down. If it had snowed, it would have been nice to be able to call other guides and outfitters who were down lower where the elk were moving to make sure our hunters were successful.” Brad also hopes to have a financial partner in the future. “We donate all the hunts, and it would be nice to have a company as a sponsor or philanthropic individuals,” Brad commented on the marketing potential for businesses in this set-up.
To document the hunts, Brad hired a professional photographer to capture the special moments and memories, but he also knows the friendships forged during the hunts will last a lifetime. Dave commented, “The whole thing was over the top and unbelievable – it is such a neat experience. We are going to do this every year.” “It was very humbling to see the families interact.
It was very special to create an environment where the focus was on the family,” added Karen. For more information about the hunts, to become a sponsor, or if you have a hunter in mind, contact Brad Probst at 970-485-924 or Dave and Karen Hammer at 970-724-3400..