GREEN RIVER, WYO. – Last month, Emma Decker, a 16-year-old high school junior in Mountain View, was able to do something she thought she may not ever be able to do again: hunt. Thanks to the Muley Fanatic Foundation’s “Putting the U in Hunt” program, Decker, a self-described hunter since the age of 4, scored a 356-inch elk.
Decker had been stuck in the hospital getting radiation treatments after brain surgery removed cancerous tumors. She said it was an amazing trip, in part because it gave her something positive to look forward to.
“I was kind of a little sad about having cancer,” Decker said. “But going on this trip, you’re able to get out of the hospital, and you’re able to think about other things than having your life-threatening diseases.”
The program was launched eight years ago, and has helped 74 kids from across the nation experience Wyoming’s world-renowned hunting grounds. All expenses are covered for kids and their families, including air travel, meals and accommodations, meat processing and taxidermy.
Decker said her family should be set for the winter after her harvest, which has already produced a lot of hamburgers, tacos and jerky. She encourages young people who like to hunt and need a break from the hospital to sign up.
“It was really nice, because the people that took me there were super nice to me, and I was able to make some new friends,” she said. “I don’t like killing the animal, but I like having the meat. And getting the trophy animal is pretty cool too.”
Josh Coursey, president and CEO with the Muley Fanatic Foundation, said Putting the U in Hunt also supplies assistive technologies to help kids with disabilities participate fully. He said the program relies on word of mouth to find applicants, in part because federal health laws on privacy make it difficult to reach kids dealing with illnesses.
“It’s a very unique opportunity, and we just like to continue to get the word out so that we can help bring it to fruition for those that might need it,” Coursey said. “We’ve put 74 in the field to date. It’s magical, not only for the child but for their parents and family.”
Families with children between age 12 and 20 facing serious, life-threatening health circumstances can sign up for the program at MuleyFanatic.org.
Disclosure: Muley Fanatic Foundation contributes to Public News Service’s fund for reporting on Endangered Species & Wildlife, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness.