We want to tell you a story about four Marines and a coffee-industry pioneer, on a ranch in Idaho. Add to the cast of characters a renowned hunter, a ranch manager, and a Vietnam veteran. Dogs, ducks, pheasants, and quail comprise the supporting cast.
Let’s start with the Marines:
Shawn and Chris served together in the military intelligence field during a deployment to Iraq. Before that, Chris, a 20-year veteran, served in Haiti, Bosnia, and Afghanistan as a counterintelligence officer. Shawn deployed three times to Iraq, and medically retired after 13 years due to a brain injury received during combat.
Mo and Jesse served in one of the Marine Corps’ elite units. Mo was in the Corps for 17 years, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan in Force Reconnaissance and Special Operations; he was injured in Fallujah. Jesse was a Scout Sniper and then joined Force Recon. After 11 years of service, he teaches as a civilian special reconnaissance for Marine Special Operations Battalions.
Picture them in head-to-toe camouflage, with a pop of orange for safety.
Jim Stewart is the founder of Seattle’s Best Coffee and a tireless supporter of Freedom Alliance and our nation’s military. Three years ago, he worked with us to organize a pheasant hunt for veterans, and the trip has become an annual staple in our fall schedule of events.
Weiser River Ranches in Weiser, Idaho, is our setting, and there is no place better for this hunt. The properties are maintained under the codes established by Pheasants Forever, a non-profit organization which seeks to conserve Idaho’s natural pheasant populations.
Carl Rey (the renowned hunter in the cast), who co-owns the ranches, takes pride in the treatment of the wildlife as well as the land. He is assisted by ranch manager, Keith Crossley.
Keith and Jim welcomed our Marines at the Boise airport, along with Jim’s friend Dick, who is a veteran of the Vietnam War. The first order of business once settled in at Weiser River Ranches was Jim’s traditional elk roast.
The next morning began in the duck impoundment, where the sun come up as we watched ducks come in for landing on a pond, which looked like glass in the early dawn. After a hearty breakfast, we prepared for the main event, featuring pheasants.
Carl, Keith, and a young man named Adam used their dogs to flush out the birds from the tall grasses. The men shot their limit of roosters (with beautiful red and green heads and white-ringed necks), while enjoying a long walk through the fields.
Lunch was a venison chili, and then it was back out to find quail. These birds are smaller and quicker, so this part of the hunt was more ambitious and had a faster pace.
After a couple of hours trying for quail, we returned to the ranch house for the sunset and a campfire. Jim slow-cooked salmon, which was capped by apple crisp (made by Keith’s wife, Jessie) and homemade ice cream.
By the next morning, it was over, and we were headed back to the airport with 15 pounds of pheasant and some elk meat Carl gave us.
When we tell people about this event, we say, “It’s a short trip, but we accomplish much.” That’s the truth, and all those involved agree.
“That was one hell of a weekend!” Jesse told us afterward.
Shawn wrote, “If I could ever have dreamed up a hunting trip to go on, it would have been exactly like this one…”
“To be with my fellow war-fighters,” he said, “filled a gap I had in my life, and I am sure we will continue to to be in touch with each other in the future. I came home feeling whole, which is something I haven’t felt in a long time.”
We appreciated what Jim’s friend Dick said to us about the unusual chemistry that bound this group together right from the get-go:
“When I got out of service, waaaaay back when, I must admit I had a hard time finding anyone that I had what I would call great chemistry with. Mainly because I felt a little lost, and a little damaged.
“Sort of like the missing dog on a poster I once saw,” he said. “It read like this: ‘LOST. Three-legged Dalmatian, blind in one eye and has a broken tail. Answers to the name of LUCKY.’ I just want all of you to know that if you ever get to feeling ‘lucky,’ reach out. It’s a good world out there.”
Through our work at Freedom Alliance we also have seen good people in the world reach out to the “Lucky Ones.” From the founder of Seattle’s Best Coffee to kids in grade school, we are together making a difference by saying thank you. It’s important. And being able to do that … yeah, we feel pretty lucky, too.