Safari Club International, with the assistance of the University of Montana Rural Institute’s MonTECH program, organized a hunting trip for Tyson Boyes on Craig Barrett’s expansive ranch in the Bitterroot Valley. Barrett is the former chairman and CEO of Intel and offers his elk-populated land for Safari Club International’s disabled hunters program.
On Nov. 3, 2012, four generations of family stood on a hillside near Darby, MT, celebrating Tyson Boyes’ first elk. The 14-year-old Boyes, born with cerebral palsy and confined to a wheelchair, had just taken down a cow with a single shot from 300 yards away.
Gary Wardell, the disabled hunters chair for SCI’s Western Montana Chapter, says in the past three years, three young men with disabilities have successfully harvested an elk through the program. The hunters use equipment championed by Chris Clasby, who was paralyzed from the neck down in an accident when he was 18 and has spent the past 21 years working to expand opportunities for disabled outdoorsmen in Montana. And as Wardell notes, Clasby is a fine hunter himself. “Chris is just a unique individual,” Wardell said. “He’s the most gracious guy in the world.”
MonTECH has a rifle mount that allows people who can’t use their arms or legs to aim and fire a rifle by biting down on a device that activates the trigger. MonTECH donates the mounting equipment for SCI’s disabled hunter excursions, including the hunt with the Boyes family.
Surrounded by loved ones, Tyson had the look of a young man empowered by the pride of filling his family’s freezer with meat. The shot was perfect. The day had gone just right. And the whole family was there to share the moment.
“The greatest part of hunting – God’s greatest gift – is to provide for our families,” Tyson’s father, Jeremy, said last week in recalling the story of his son’s big hunt. “It brings tears to my eyes every time I think about my son providing for us.”
After his father finished speaking, Tyson’s mother, Gina, encouraged her son to say something. “Go ahead, you can say it,” she said, with a grin.
Tyson returned the grin: “Dad has never got an elk.”
How Tyson Boyes got his first elk before his father did is a testament to the power of collaboration and community. From the efforts of Safari Club International to the donated time and land of caring Montanans to the support of four generations of family, Gina Boyes is reminded of the saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.” The saying is particularly true with a child in Tyson’s circumstances.
“These things empower Tyson to go a step farther, and then another step farther,” Gina said. “It’s so great to see all of these people help Tyson to grow his wings.”
Leading up to the hunt, Tyson practiced with his grandfather Kevin to get accustomed to shooting with the mount: aiming steadily, remaining calm under pressure and biting without jerking the cable that pulls the trigger. As Jeremy puts it, the shooter can’t get “elk fever” and excitedly ruin the one, usually fleeting, opportunity at an elk. Tyson proved he could rise above the fever and act fluidly in the moment.
“He was very steady when he was sighted in,” Jeremy said of the moment of truth when Tyson took aim at the big cow. “A lot of people don’t stay steady when they see an elk, but he did. He didn’t have any elk fever.”
Chris Clasby and his girlfriend, Mary Watne, offered their assistance on the day of the hunt, as did the ranch’s foreman and another local resident who retrieved the elk with a chainsaw-powered winch. Among the others who took part in the special day were Tyson’s parents, grandparents and even his great-grandmother, who helped scout the elk.
When the day was over, the group had a celebratory dinner. There was a lot to celebrate. “It was just a great evening,” Wardell said. “I don’t think the day could have gone any better.”
This article was reprinted in edited form by permission from Flathead Beacon Newspaper.