Equipped to Thrive: Unfinished Business - Warriors & Quiet Waters

Equipped to Thrive: Unfinished Business

Post-9/11 combat veteran Larry has been a part of the Warriors & Quiet Waters Family for almost a decade. After years of giving back to other veterans through volunteering with WQW, Larry was invited to participate in our programs. Below is Larry’s story of “Unfinished Business” after participating in the inaugural cohort of Hunt for Purpose in 2022. He and his companion, Ryan, knew they’d need to get back to the mountains together and complete his Hunt for Purpose journey.

WQW: Thank you for joining us, Larry. To begin, had you ever been elk hunting prior to participating in Hunt for Purpose?

I had probably been archery hunting for elk three times before Hunt for Purpose.

WQW: How did your Hunt for Purpose journey play out?

Ryan Olson, Caretaker of Quiet Waters Ranch, was assigned as my companion. Toward the beginning of Hunt for Purpose, Ryan said, “I’m going to do everything I possibly can to find you an elk.” I was slated to go into the Bob Marshall Wilderness for my hunt in September of 2022. However, due to COVID-19 exposure, Ryan was unable to go with me. I was disappointed that Ryan could not go to the culminating event with me after we had been through the sixth-month program together.

Although I did not harvest an elk, we spent four glorious days up in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and my hunt was still successful. For me, the purpose, the intent, and the reason for being in the program was to work on my purpose in life and understand where I want to go and how I want to live my life.

WQW: How did you complete your “unfinished business” of not harvesting an elk during your time on Hunt for Purpose?

This year, I served as a team leader and mentor on the Hunt for Purpose hunt with two Warriors down in the Pioneers. Again, it was tough hunting again and we went home empty-handed. When I got back, my wife told me that her father saw elk up at their private property north of Helena. I decided to call Ryan because we didn’t get to go hunting last year. I called Ryan and said, “Hey man, what are you doing the next few days?” Ryan responded, “Well, tomorrow I'm going out hunting. I don't know where, but my plan is I'm going hunting.”

When I invited Ryan to come with me to Helena, he said, “We have unfinished business, I promised you I would help you find an elk, so let's go do that." That's the type of guy that Ryan is.

Thursday afternoon and all-day Friday, we were out there feeling miserable in the cold, wet, rainy, foggy weather. On Saturday, the weather cleared up, and I was sitting doing my ranges around 7:30 in the morning. After about five minutes of sitting down there, Ryan stood right behind me and bugled down the hill. I heard a bugle come back from straight in front of us, down the hill, probably a couple hundred yards away.

WQW: How did it feel to be near an elk and one step closer to achieving your goal?

I got super excited. My heart started pumping. I got goosebumps, and all the steps and processes of getting a good quality and ethical shot on an elk started going through my mind. I've never bugled back and forth with an elk.

WQW: That must’ve been such an energetic moment. What steps did you take next?

I watched the elk, and he moved from my left front to my left side. He popped his head up, looked straight over at me, and he was at a 45, maybe 90-degree angle to me at this point. I was still with my bow sitting in my lap. The arrow was knocked. I had my release attached to the string, and I was just looking at him trying to think small and be still. He moved behind a tree, and I started to bring my bow up into position and I got it to about 30 degrees before he popped out and I saw his eyes again. I froze.

Then he took another couple steps forward behind some trees and I started to put some tension on the string, and I got up to probably about 75 degrees with my bow, and he popped out in the clearing again. Once again, he scanned around and stopped.

I was probably drawn for 30 seconds to a minute total time. He went in behind this next set of trees and bushes, and he stepped out into a wide clearing. I gapped the space between my 20- and 30-yard pin and sent the arrow flying.

My arrow found its mark, and after waiting for some time, we found the elk.

WQW: What emotions did you feel at that final moment?

Ryan and I high fived and immediately felt elated. This feeling came through me that what I had started a year and a half prior with Ryan as my companion, mentor, and life coach, if you will, came together. For Ryan to be that excited about me getting this, and for us to finish out a hunt together, to even go on a hunt together, says a lot for the kind of person that he is.

It helped me move through this process of finding what my purpose in life is.

As I sat there looking at this elk, it was just a pretty surreal feeling of accomplishment and connection and comradery and brotherhood and tribe that I was able to be out there with Ryan to do this.

WQW: It’s remarkable to see how your elk hunting journey has come full circle. Can you describe what this experience meant to you? Why is archery elk hunting important to you?

First, one of the reasons is that I like archery elk hunting is that it’s a tough experience out there in the woods. You get to do this hard thing of trying to harvest an elk, which is tough to do anyways, but it becomes even more difficult with the bow.

I had somebody explain it to me one time that the reason he hunts was to be a part of the process. It’s an opportunity to take some ownership in the process of putting food on our plate. I wanted to make sure I did that. After Hunt for Purpose, I knew that I wanted to get an animal at some time, but my whole goal for going hunting last week was to obtain and provide food for my family.

The best part of this story is that I've now gotten to include my wife and my oldest daughter in this journey. We started making sausage out of that elk in our home. This is now a family experience for us. I am super excited about being able to take some of the elk that I harvested, and make something out of the meat with my family in our house. It is all part of my purpose statement that I crafted in Hunt for Purpose last year.

WQW: Did you feel like you were thriving during your recent hunts, even on the ones where you didn’t harvest an elk?

Absolutely, 100%. We all have difficult times in life and setbacks that we need to get through. Once I decided to leave my old job, keep my family here, and focus on the lifestyle we wanted, I knew I was living a thriving life.

Harvesting an animal in the hunt last year wasn't my goal. I was there for the purpose piece of the program. That was it. That was 100% success.

WQW: Thank you, Larry, for sharing your story with us. Lastly, we’d like to know what thriving means to you, and how you experience thriving in your daily life.

Thriving is living a noteworthy life of value and action that I can be proud of, my family can be proud of, and that positively impacts others. Thriving happens when I'm a happy, good, and contributing member of society where I can continue to have my second service. I put 30 years in the Army and three deployments overseas to the Middle East. When I retired, I knew that a huge piece of my life would be missing. I called it my second service, and I'm fortunate enough now to have a job that provides that. Being in service to others is a part of a thriving life.

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