A group of wounded marines from San Diego made the long trip to Princeton in mid-May for a spring bear hunt, proving they can still shoot despite having lost limbs overseas.
The American men, who are part of Wounded Warrior Outdoors, had to change the way they usually use a gun after they were injured in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Getting the bears isn’t the real purpose of the trip. It’s to get them out of the hospital and overcome their injuries,” said Wounded Warrior Outdoors member Ron Raboud, who owns a ranch near Princeton.
Six recently injured marines and one man from the army were chosen by their doctors at Balboa Naval Medical Center to go on the trip for therapeutic reasons.
Sgt. Brian Meyer killed the largest bear of the trip at a distance of 288 metres.
He was injured in a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, resulting in the loss of his right arm, leg and several fingers on his left hand.
“These injuries required Brian to shoot totally opposite of how he did prior to being injured,” Raboud said.
“This is a tough shot for anyone, but truly impressive in Brian’s situation.”
Outdoor activities – which also include alligator hunts and fly-fishing in other parts of North America – are meant to be therapeutic to the marines.
Fifty wounded, but active, marines are selected to take part each year. The organization covers all their travel, board and equipment costs.
Despite having lost limbs, the men were able to make their catch.
Sgt. Matt Amos took the second largest bear on the week, losing out to Meyer by only a few centimetres.
Amos was also injured in a roadside bomb – twice. He was first hit in Iraq, and later lost both his legs in another explosion in Afghanistan.
In spite of having a disability permit that allows him to shoot from a vehicle, Amos chose not to use it.
“Instead when the opportunity at the second bear presented itself, Matt exited the truck and walked roughly 100 yards to shoot off a rock. Very impressive,” Raboud said.
“It is their efforts, determination and attitude that make each remarkable.”
The group will be back for their annual bear hunt next May. Their next adventure is fly-fishing in Maine this summer.