SHERIDAN — Sheridan resident and veteran Hunter Wohlers received a unique experience in early October when he hunted a deer off of land owned by the Buckskin Mining Co. north of Gillette.
Wohlers is a native of Sheridan, and after receiving his GED, he served eight years of active duty for the U.S. Army before he transferred to the National Guard, where he presently serves. Currently, Wohlers is a logistics specialist, but he is getting ready to transfer into field artillery. Wohlers worked in field artillery while on active duty and did one tour in Afghanistan from 2011-2012. The planned one-year tour was cut down to six months.
Wohlers is attending Sheridan College and is working on a secondary education degree, planning to teach math. After completing his degree at Sheridan College, Wohlers is planning to attend the University of Wyoming.
Greg Passini, environmental manager for Buckskin Mine, said it had been five or six years since anyone has been allowed to hunt on the mine’s property. The lack of hunting had led to deer grouping on the property, providing for an easy hunt.
Passini approached Ed Vine, who was working on a fence located on the property, with the idea of allowing a veteran to harvest a deer at the mine.
Passini said he had been considering the idea for a few years. The mine had a no hunting policy, but he knew there was land and deer available for hunting, along with a mine manager that would be open to the idea. Passini saw this year as a good time to organize the hunt and move it forward.
Vine and Passini looked at local organizations and national organizations, trying to find a worthy veteran. Passini received Wohlers’ name from Richard Wallice, an acquaintance of Passini’s son, and started to coordinate the hunt.
Wohlers said he was excited to receive the opportunity. Growing up, he did not do a lot of hunting and has only been a few times prior to this event. He had been trying to go hunting this year and saw this as a good opportunity to get started.
Wohlers was outfitted for the hunt by Wallice, a veteran of the Gulf War serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. Wohlers said it was nice to have someone who has hunted before to help him prepare for the hunt and it was an amazing opportunity to hunt with another veteran.
Wallice and Wohlers shot some targets before heading to the mine. It had been over a year since Wohlers had last shot a rifle. Wohlers said it was nice to get behind a rifle again and he quickly remembered his training.
Passini said he kept an eye on the deer until Wohlers and Wallice arrived. With the mine still active, Passini wanted to make sure Wohlers had a clear shooting line and was not going to be aiming in a dangerous direction.
After a short hike of a few hundred yards, Wohlers had a chance to take down a buck from 110 yards out, Passini said. Wallice told Wohlers not to miss.
Wohlers’ shot was true and he took down the mule deer buck with one shot. Wohlers said it had been a while since he had seen a big mule deer buck and was excited for the opportunity to pull the trigger on one.
Passini said he has been a hunter his whole life and this was one of the more rewarding hunts he has been on. The only hunts that topped this one were the ones he shared with his own children.
Once the deer was down, gutted and returned to Sheridan, Wohlers stopped at Winterland Taxidermy where Nate Winterland donated a full shoulder mount of the buck.
Vine helped out by processing and packaging the meat for Wohlers, who now has a freezer full of venison.
Wohlers said he was starting to get low on meat and this hunt came at the perfect time. With meat an expensive product to purchase, the hunt provided meat for his family. Wohlers has a wife and two kids.
Passini said he plans to continue providing hunts to veterans next year. This was a trial run and with everything going smoothly he is confident the hunts will continue.
Buckskin Mine has veterans that work at the mine, Passini said. Personnel at the mine were happy to let a veteran hunt and wanted to support any military member they can. Currently the mine is hosting a food drive for an employee that was deployed to Afghanistan and plans to send a care package to those serving overseas.
Passini said he wants to involve more veterans working at the mine involved with the process. Through the work this first year, Passini said he was able to build a network from where to find veterans to participate in the hunt. He is wanting to keep the event as local as possible.
The mine will not open hunting to the public.
Wohlers said he and his wife were able to find the spot for his head mount in the house after looking through the different options.
Wohlers said if any veteran has the opportunity to go on a hunt they should take the opportunity and he is grateful for the opportunity Passini and Wallice provided for him.