Once-in-a-lifetime hunt on the White Sands Missile Range

On June 5, 1963, President John F. Kennedy visited White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, to review the missiles being tested and fielded by the US Army and Navy. Nearly 60 years later, Jack from Wisconsin would also visit White Sands searching for a powerfully built antelope species called the Oryx, which can stand almost 4 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 450 lbs.

Jack’s father, Joe, said, “This experience was really outside of anything we had attempted with Jack in the past. This hunt really kicked his excitement to a high level. It was enjoyable to watch and experience his enthusiasm for the trip, to the point where he wanted me to drive straight through (1500 miles), so we could get there sooner.”

“When my dad and I pulled up at their motel in Socorro, Jack was out of the doorway greeting us with his “Big old Jack Smile,” said John Plowman. “He was very excited to meet us and expressed his enthusiasm about going hunting the following morning. He wanted to get the animal on the first day because he wouldn’t sleep until he did.”

They all drove out to the White Sands Missile range the following morning and waited in line with the other hunters to get checked in. Then drove out to a location where they listened on their truck radio to Gilbert Villegas, the hunt administrator, going over the safety procedures, restricted areas, rules and regulations of the hunting range, and the different signs. When the briefing concluded, all the other hunters were disbursing from the headquarters.

“Gilbert offered to help John and Rodney in guiding the hunt. He also coordinated with some of his staff to scout areas and relay back to find opportunities,” said Joe.
Following Gilbert, they drove approximately 12 miles from the headquarters to where he had been seeing Oryx. The mobility impaired card allowed Jack to shoot from the vehicle, so they loaded him in his wheelchair into the back of the truck along with the shooting mount. Then his dad sat beside him, and Rodney drove while John was scouting for an Oryx. “Although bouncing on some rocky back roads was an uncomfortable challenge, my son kept a great attitude.”

They saw a couple of groups of Oryx that were too far out of shooting range. Then, they finally had a group of six stop about two hundred yards out, looking directly at them but quickly ran off. They kept driving and saw more herds but, like the others, they were off in the distance. Finally, they came upon a bull bedded down by himself about 50 yards off the road. He got up quickly and took off and then stopped about 300 yards, and bedded back down in the grass!

John said, “We told Jack to aim in that area precisely where he could see the tip of the bull’s horns sticking out of the grass. That way, when the animal stood up, his shot would be even with its chest. Gilbert decided to walked out about 200 yards west of us, and after he whistled the Oryx stood up. The crack of Jack’s 7mm rifle rang out as the bullet flew true to the vital area. The bull ran about 200 yards and went down in an area of unstable ground. We couldn’t get Jack out there in his wheelchair, so we drove out to where the animal went down. When Jack got close to the Oryx, he said, “All thanks to God!” You could see the joy, and feel the happiness amongst the group of being part of a hunt for a well deserving child.”

No stranger to hard times, we believe war hero President Kennedy would be proud of Jack who, 60 years after his visit, challenged the rugged landscape of New Mexico in search of his dream!

Special thanks to John and Rodney Plowman and Gilbert Villegas and the White Sands Missile Range for helping make this young man’s dream come true! Congratulations to Jack on his trophy Oryx and the unforgettable memories and camaraderie shared with his father and newfound hunting buddies! God bless!

If you are interested in getting involved or know of a deserving child or veteran, don’t hesitate to contact USSA.