Army Veteran Experiences Elk Hunt

Minnesota Elk Breeders Association (MnEBA), December 29, 2011 – Mike McElhiney, a wounded 21-year veteran of the United States Army, recently undertook a hunt most people only dream of as the recipient of the 5th Annual MnEBA Charitable Elk Hunt. The hunt took place on December 2-4, 2011 and was coordinated by MnEBA. It was sponsored through the generosity of Prairie Hills Elk, Tony’s Trophy Elk Hunt Ranch, Lake Superior Chapter Safari Club International (SCI), Midwest Outdoors Unlimited and Oak Point Elk Farm.

Mike McElhiney is a retired Master Sergeant who began his military career in the Army Infantry just after graduating from high school in 1989. He rapidly rose in military ranks and eventually became the Battalion Assistant Operations Sergeant and Senior Weapons Sergeant for Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 574. Mike’s ODA made history after the attacks on 9-11 as the first team to infiltrate southern Afghanistan, bringing with them the current president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). On the morning of December 5, 2001, Mike and all of his team members were either killed in action or
nearly fatally wounded in a battle north of Kandahar. Mike ultimately lost his right arm as a result of this attack.

Mike now resides in Independence, Minnesota and has a wife and two children. Even though he is retired from active duty, he still continues to actively support veterans through the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs where he serves as Legislative Director. Mike loves to hunt and fish and has been hunting since he could “keep up”. Mike says, “I remember my first hunt with my dad. It was small game –rabbits, squirrels and quail. As I recall, I was able to carry my BB gun along. I hunt whatever I have time to hunt now, as well as what I can afford.”

The elk hunt awarded to Mike was something he never thought he’d have the chance to do. “I appreciate it. It’s the trophy of a lifetime, there’s no doubt about it.” Tony Beckel of Tony’s Trophy Elk Hunt Ranch as well as Ron Welle and cameraman LeRoy Weiner of Midwest Outdoors Unlimited accompanied Mike on his hunt.

Mike’s adrenalin was pumping all day long when at about 4pm, they stumbled upon the elk lying in the woods. “I’ve shot guns a long time, but the first time you encounter one of these things it’s a whole different story,” Mike said. He went on to say, “I got a shot into him, he stood up; it was kind of a high shot. He gave us the perfect broadside view and I got a good kill into him.” Mike’s guide, Tony Beckel added, “The elk didn’t go even 10 yards after he was shot”.

Mike is thankful to everyone who had a part in granting him the “hunt of a lifetime”. Ron Welle expressed appreciation to Mike for his service to our country with these words, “This is just a little bit of us, we call, giving back to our veterans for what they have given us. I can’t thank you [Mike] enough.” Mike expressed his appreciation of all military personnel who have ever served. “These are the reasons we do it, freedoms we cherish, the reason we go overseas. We’re out here living the dream…just being out here having fun, driving around seeing the scenery, cooking over the campfire, that’s what it’s all about. We’re in no rush, no hurry, and under no threats so I love it.”

MnEBA was pleased to coordinate this hunt for Mike. We offer heartfelt gratitude to Mike and to all United States military men and women for their sacrifice and service to our country which allows us the immeasurable freedoms we all enjoy.