Lauren was diagnosed with Leigh’s Syndrome at the age of six months. Her older sister, Kennedy, was diagnosed with the same condition and received her angel wings at the age of 14. Their older brother, Zachary, also had a disability, which made life challenging for the family. After Kennedy passed away, their mother, Colleen, said they started spending more time outdoors. Lauren and Zachary enjoyed being outside, so their parents applied for them to attend an event with the United Special Sportsman Alliance (USSA).
After going on a Great Lakes fishing trip, Lauren’s family became interested in USSA’s program. Zachary attended his first hunting trip soon after, and Lauren was happy for her brother, but she was too young to hunt yet. Over the next few years, Zachary explored more hunting opportunities, which increased his self-esteem. He highly encouraged his young sister to try it out. Finally, in 2022, Lauren got her first deer with an adaptive shooting device. She was ecstatic and now had a bigger dream to get a bear like her brother.
In February 2023, Charles Hansen donated his long-awaited bear license to the United Special Sportsman Alliance. It wasn’t long after Lauren received the fantastic news she would be going on a Wisconsin bear hunt.
Her father, Bob, expressed his excitement and surprise upon hearing about the bear hunt. He never expected such an opportunity. Her mother, Colleen, on the other hand, was curious about the process, considering that they would be running with dogs instead of sitting in a blind and Lauren could not walk. However, Lauren was thrilled, and that was all that mattered to her mother.
Brent Evitch, a member of the Critter Gitter Hound Hunter Crew, contacted her parents and arranged a date for her hunting trip. On the first day of the hunt, the Crew found a fresh track just after sunrise as the rig dogs caught its scent and began barking. As the track warmed up, they released the other pack dogs, who hastened to catch up with the lead trailing dogs.
Brent said, “We ran the bear for 5 hours and covered 20 miles but could not get it out of this super thick clearcut, and it wouldn’t climb the tree. Finally, the race fell apart, and we returned to camp. Then, that afternoon, we had a bait recently hit with a hot track and then turned the dogs loose. We treed the bear but couldn’t get to the tree before dark. That was the end of the first few days, and Lauren and her parents had to go home.”
A few days later, Brent informed Bob that they had seen a bear on their trail camera. So, Lauren and her father returned early on Thursday morning. Colleen couldn’t attend because of her work, but she kept her phone with her, eagerly waiting for updates. She remained hopeful, knowing that the mentors had recently sighted a bear.
On the first morning of their second hunt, they released the dogs on a freshly hit bait at sunrise. It didn’t take long before they had treed the bear, but it was a sow with a cub, so they moved on to a different bait. A bear had hit another bait early the previous night, so they turned the dogs loose on the cold track. After some good dog work, they had the bear jumped then and it made a few circles before it was treed.
They followed a dirt trail for about 400 yards, but the rough terrain and trees made it difficult to navigate using the track chair. To get closer to the bear, Bob carried Lauren while two men carefully steered the track chair around the obstacles. Eventually, they reached the tree, where other bear hunters and dogs awaited them. Bob and Lauren sat together on the track chair, with Brent on their left side, helping Lauren aim the crossbow at the bear. Lauren looked up at the bear excitedly, then back down at the crossbow, and finally, she looked through the scope to get the bear in the crosshairs. She gently pulled the trigger, and the bear fell out of the tree. Everyone was excited for her, shaking each other’s hands and congratulating her while hugging her in celebration.
Bob said, “I was amazed by the bear hunters who had traveled so far to help Lauren’s hunt. Some of the hunters were 70-year-old men who were in tears. The experience was emotional, and the kindness and generosity shown by the people involved will remain in my heart forever. This bear hunt for my daughter made me realize there are truly good people out there.”
Colleen said, “I was excited when Bob called to say she finally got her bear after all the hard work Lauren and the bear hunters put into the hunt. Even though I wasn’t there, I got to feel the excitement of being present during Lauren’s first bear hunt.”
We want to express our gratitude towards Brent Evitch and the Critter Gitter Hound Hunter Crew for their unwavering dedication to ensuring a successful bear hunt for Lauren. Thanks to Charles Hansen for donating his license, Hartung Taxidermy for donating the fantastic mount, and Hughes Forms for the supplies. Congratulations to the young huntress on her trophy bear and the unforgettable memories shared by all. God bless!
If you are interested in getting involved, want to donate your 2024 bear license, or know of a deserving youth or veteran, don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected].