Veterans on the Peak – Hunting with Heroes

    It’s not the harvest, but the experience that makes a memorable hunt. For two women veterans, one a former Marine mechanic and the other a communications specialist in the United States Army, the two days trekking across the rugged terrain of Elk Hunting Area 47 will remain both a good and a frustrating memory.

    Caitlin Chamberlain originally from Seattle, Washington, and now living with her family in Bailey, Colorado had previous hunting experience, taking a mule deer with a bow in Colorado one year, but her hunting partner, Jennifer Phillips, of Westminster, Colorado had never taken a big game animal. That all changed for her last Monday.

    Caitlin Chamberlain and Jennifer Phillips veterans with Hunting with Heroes – h/t Randy Tucker

    The two veterans were hunting the area northeast of Shoshoni for elk as part of the Hunting with Heroes organization. In the program disabled veterans use donated tags to hunt with guides.


    Their sponsor was Shawn Steffan, with their guides Brian Tucker, Trapper Bradshaw, and Calon Cuttlers. The three men took time off from work to take out Chamberlain and Phillips on Monday and Tuesday after hunting with veterans Clifton Sessions and Carl Griggs the previous Saturday and Sunday.

    Jennifer Phillips with a 6×6 bull elk she took on her first hunt with guides Trapper Bradshaw and Calon Cuttlers – h/t Trapper Bradshaw

    “The relationships made on these hunts and the stories the veterans share, are life changing,” Tucker said. “Success is never guaranteed, but we can do our best to present an opportunity to those, who have sacrificed more than any of us can imagine.”

    Brian Tucker glassed a ridge looking for elk – h/t Randy Tucker

    The hunting was a challenge, with the veteran guides spotting only four elk in the entire four days of the hunt. On Monday they were able to get Phillips a shot on an excellent 6×6 bull and she harvested her first elk.

    Phillips was in the Army Signal Corp, “25 Sierra, satellite communications,” she said.


    Originally from Demming, New Mexico, Phillips came from a family with strong military traditions.

    “My grandfathers and grandmothers were all World War II veterans,” she said.

    Jennifer Phillips sighting in her 6.8 Western built by her husband Larry -h/t Randy Tucker

    Military service often offers a direction for young people, and the Army had an answer for Phillips.


    “I was at a place in my life that I needed to change,” Phillips said. “I met a Navy recruiter, took the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battey) scored a 96, and I started getting calls.”

    She trained at Ft. Gordon, Georgia, then her first station was Ft. DRM, then Ft. Richardson, and finally Ft. Huachuca, Arizona.

    “I joined an already deployed unit in 1999,” Phillips said. “I read an article in Kuwait where Osama Bin Laden said women and children were acceptable targets for the “Snake of the West” then came 9/11.”


    Phillips was in Operation Southern Watch and served at the end of Desert Fox before deploying to Ft. Richardson, a joint command with Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.

    A new Army private – h/t Jennifer Phillips

    It was at Ft. Huachuca that she had to take a medical retirement.

    “I had an adverse reaction to the anthrax vaccine and was out in 2006,” Phillips said.

    It was earlier in her career, at the Yuma Proving Ground that she met her husband Larry Phillips.

    “Larry was a rigger at the free fall school when we met. We were married in 2009,” she said.

    She enrolled at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and earned a BA and then an MA in Public Administration.

    The view from the top of Copper Mountain – Boysen Reservoir and Bass Lake in the distance – h/t Randy Tucker

    She now works for the United States Veterans Administration.

    “I do quality review and education approvals for the VA,” Phillips said.

    She and Larry have four girls in a blended family, and 10 grandchildren ranging from eight months to 14 years.

    The two days on Copper Mountain were her first as a hunter.

    “I have always wanted to see if I could do it,” she said.

    Trapper Bradshaw adjusts the sights for Caitlin Chamberlain during target practice – h/t Randy Tucker

    Her guides, Tucker and Bradshaw are very experienced in the area, taking disabled veterans on elk hunts in the harsh terrain for the last 11 years. Cuttlers has guided the last three seasons.

    “They sacrificed so much for us, it’s the least I can do for them,” Bradshaw said. “Hunting is my passion and I’m glad to do this with disabled veterans.”

    Tucker shared similar sentiments, “When I first heard about the Hunting with Heroes program, I was immediately interested. Hunting has always been a passion of mine. This was a way to give back to those who served and combine the two, so the fit was perfect,” he said.

    Trapper Bradshaw and Caitlin Chamberlain glass an area in Calon Cuttler’s Can Am side-by-side – h/t Randy Tucker

    Chamberlain, a 2009 high school graduate, also hails from a military family.

    “My aunt is a retired Army colonel,” she said. “She promoted me to corporal on Okinawa.”

    Chamberlain was interested in military service at a young age and followed it in high school.

    “We had a Marine Corps ROTC Unit at my high school,” she said.

    Chamberlain was a diesel mechanic in the Marine Corps.

    “I worked on Humvees, and seven-ton LVS (Logistics Vehicle System nicknamed “Dragon Wagons”), she said.

    A grove of brilliant orange aspens on Copper Mountain – h/t Randy Tucker

    The “Dragon Wagons” were an assortment of eight-wheel drive all-terrain vehicles used by the Marines.

    She was stationed in Okinawa and took part in Cobra Gold in Thailand.

    The operation featured an amphibious landing and several of the vehicles stalled in the surf.

    “They pulled them out and I put them back into service,” Chamberlain said.

    Her husband Kyle is also a disabled veteran, he was hit in the face with a chain in Afghanistan when a boomer broke loose. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    The couple were married in 2013 and have two children a seven-year-old boy, and a four-year-old girl.

    the rugged terrain where Jennifer Phillips harvested a bull elk – h/t Randy Tucker

    Chamberlain’s disability is all too familiar for women serving in the United States Military.

    The prevalence of sexual assault directed at female service members is so common the military has a term for it, MST (Military Sexual Trauma), and 90% of women in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps have reported suffering from it.

    Of the many causes of PTSD in female military veterans, sexual assault accounts for the highest single category. It now represents 27% of all the sources of PTSD in military women.

    “I was almost killed by a fellow Marine in a hotel in Okinawa,” Chamberlain said. “Thank goodness someone heard it and called the Provost Marshall. The MPs saved my life.”

    The resulting trauma ended her career as a US Marine, but she has a message for anyone witnessing a violent act.

    “Don’t be a bystander, do something, call somebody,” she said.

    Caitlin Chamberlain takes aim at the target – h/t Randy Tucker

    Chamberlain now holds a blackbelt in Judo and is an instructor, but she and her husband share a passion for firearms and are both currently enrolled in the Colorado School of Trades studying gunsmithing.

    “With our current disabilities, we wouldn’t have to work, but we want to and decided to become gunsmiths,” Chamberlain said.

    Chamberlains’ hunt didn’t end as well as Phillips did. She didn’t get a single shot with her 6.5 PRC rifle but did get to experience some of the most breathtaking, isolated real estate in North America.

    Organizations like Hunting with Heroes offer a chance for veterans to experience something different, to realize how many people respect what they’ve done, and a chance for communities to give a little back to those who were willing to give it all. These types of therapeutic outdoor experiences, whether they be hunting, fishing, hiking, or working with horses should be available nationwide.


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