If there is one message I would like to pass on at this time of the year, it is that we should all help out our fellow man, every chance we get.
We are fortunate to live in the greatest country in the world and have the opportunities that we do.
Even in the great outdoors, if we have the opportunity to help someone we don’t know, I think we should do it. Recently I was on the Arizona Strip on a deer hunt with former Kingman resident Johnny Herrero, who had somehow beat the huge odds of drawing a tag in what is arguably the best mule deer unit in the Southwest.
With Johnny on this hunt were his father and brother, fellow Kingman residents Joe and Jimmy Herrero. I’ve known the Herrero family for many years, and they are all exceptional people. Unfortunately Johnny could not hunt the full 10 days the season was open due to prior commitments, and he only had four days to hunt. Though he saw a number of bucks, Johnny was looking for something special and didn’t squeeze the trigger on a buck.
Then the thought hit me that even though Johnny didn’t fill his tag, he could donate it to a nonprofit organization like the Arizona Elk Society, which has its Hunts For Heroes program for disabled Arizona veterans.
Herrero agreed to donate his tag, and I made a call to Tom Wagner, the coordinator for AES. I asked Wagner if it would be possible for him to find a disabled veteran who was willing to make the long drive to the Strip to hunt for the last few days of the season.
Wagner noted Thanksgiving was coming up, and it would be an extremely long drive for anyone to get to the unit. There would only be a couple of days left in the season for a veteran to hunt. Understanding the challenges, I told Wagner to get a veteran and get the tag signed over, and I would stay up there and forgo Thanksgiving back in Kingman to scout for deer. It didn’t take Wagner long before he called me back. “I’ve got you a hunter,” he said.
Turns out that a former Marine, Warren Griffith, who lives in Gilbert, was willing to come up even though we would have only two days to hunt. Warren had served in the Marine Corps from 1999-2003 and was an aviation ordinance technician. His wife’s name is Ashley, and he has two children, ages 10 and 12. Currently, Warren is working in the insurance business and had hunted before, but he had never taken a mule deer.
I wasn’t going to be alone on this hunt. Kingman resident Jay Chan would drive back up to camp the day after Thanksgiving. My good friend Dan Driggs, who lives in St. George, Utah, was also willing to come back out and help this hero, who had given so much in the service of our country. All the pieces came together and late Friday night Driggs met our new friend Warren in St. George, and Warren, who had never been to the Strip, followed Driggs to the Arizona Wildlife Outfitters camp.
Jay and I were waiting on them, and we discussed our plans for the hunt. Driggs would be the lead on this hunt, and Griffiths would be riding with him. Chan and I would be together, figuring that by working in two teams we would have a better opportunity to find Warren a buck.
I should note that Griffith had never taken a mule deer before. He wasn’t aware of the potential of the Strip to produce huge mule deer, but to him it didn’t matter. He just wanted to hunt and was willing to take any buck he saw.
The first morning we went to an area where in previous days we had seen some quality bucks. But this morning, despite our best efforts, we couldn’t find any deer. The clock was running, and we decided to split up that afternoon in our efforts to find Griffith a buck. Driggs and Griffith found a buck with some does just before sundown. It was a young buck, and its antlers were broken up. Driggs felt he could do better and encouraged Griffith to pass. After all, we still had one day left to hunt.
Sunday was the last day of the season, and Warren was understandably nervous. He really wanted to take home some meat, and he made it clear that the first buck to show would be the first to go. We didn’t really disagree but advised him we still needed to look for a buck he would be proud to put the donated tag on. Right after sunup, Driggs located a group of does, but there weren’t any bucks with them. I told him another area that was close by to glass, and it didn’t take this veteran hunter long to find deer.
Jay and I watched from over a mile away through the spotting scope as the hunters made their way down the mountain into an area with little cover.
Driggs had initially found a big buck that was by himself, but that deer gave them the slip. Then he found three more deer. There were two bucks, and they were chasing an obviously hot doe.
Even as far away as we were, we could tell that one of the bucks was larger than the other. At this point it didn’t matter. Both were mature and either would be a good first buck for Warren. Jay and I watched as Driggs got closer and closer to the unsuspecting deer that had love, not safety, on their minds. We watched as the larger buck pushed the doe over a hill and out of sight of the hunters. The other buck, however, just stood there. Then suddenly, for some unknown reason, he started running straight toward Driggs and Griffith. Griffith was on the shooting sticks when the buck stopped. He was less than 150 yards away and when the 7mm magnum rifle went off, the buck whirled, turned, and ran for a short distance before expiring.
Warren’s first buck was a dandy! It was a 3-by-3 with nice eye guards. The veteran warrior was happy and told Driggs he was for sure going to have the buck mounted. Jay and I got to the two happy hunters and assisted in processing the deer for the trip back to camp.
The hunt ended with only six hours left in the season. Due to the kindness of Johnny Herrero and of some fellow sportsmen who Warren had never met before, a dream for him came true.
I hope that you, too, will always reach out and help those that you can. Helping out our friends, family and even those we don’t know in their time of need – that’s what we as sportsmen do and that’s how it should be.